The world’s last male northern white rhino has died.
Sudan, aged 45, was being treated for age-related complications that had affected his muscles and bones and gave him extensive skin wounds, which forced Kenyan conservationists to euthanise him.
Only two white rhino females remain alive, though scientists still hope they can save the species from extinction.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy said Sudan had spent two weeks in late February and early March lying down in his pen due to discomfort from a deep wound on his right hind leg.
“His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal,” Ol Pejeta said. “The veterinary team from the Dver Kralove Zoo, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanise him.”
Sudan had previously lived at the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic before being transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 250km north of Nairobi, where he lived with the last two females of the same species, 27-year-old Najin and 17-year-old Fatu.
After attempts to mate him with a female failed, conservationists last year put Sudan on dating app Tinder, hoping to raise enough money to pay for a $9m fertility treatment.
Ol Pejeta said that they had collected Sudan’s genetic material on Monday, and said it could be used for future in vitro fertilisation.
“The only hope for the preservation of this subspecies now lies in developing in vitrofertilisation techniques using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females,” it said.
Heather Sohl, chief adviser for wildlife at conservation charity WWF, said: “The death of Sudan is heartbreaking. We’re seeing the extinction of the northern white rhino happen right before our eyes, driven by the insatiable demand for their horns. To ensure other wildlife doesn’t suffer this fate, we need strong action such as cutting demand, cracking down on corruption, and improving enforcement.”
While there are thousand of southern white rhinos still roaming the plains of sub-Saharan Africa, decades of rampant poaching have drastically cut numbers of northern whites.
Poachers can sell northern white rhino horns for $50,000 per kilo, making them more valuable than gold.
Kenya had 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s, falling to 400 in the 1990s. It now has 650, almost all of which are black rhinos.