The Last of a Species

Death of the last male northern white rhino


Photo provided by Flickr user Heather Paul.

Last month, the world’s last male northern white rhino, Sudan, passed away. Due to his old age and multiple infections, Sudan’s death was by no means a surprising occurrence. His health had been deteriorating at a steady rate, and it was predicted that he would not survive. Guarded and surrounded by those who cared for him, he was euthanized Monday, March 19th. He leaves two northern white female rhinos behind, and many have labeled it the end of the endangered species.

However, there could still be some hope left for the preservation of these animals. Scientists are already hard at work coming up with numerous ways to avoid total extinction. One of the methods includes mating with a different species. The southern white rhino is not extinct, and although the offspring would not be 100% northern white rhino, it is preferred in comparison to letting the species die out.

Scientists are also contemplating vitro fertilization, as they were able to preserve some of Sudan’s genetic material before his passing. They plan to use this technique to artificially impregnate one of the last two female northern white rhinos or one of the female southern white rhinos. If they succeed, then it would ensure the continuation of the species.

With the threat of the northern white rhinos going extinct within the next decade, the sole focus is on Najin and Futu, the two female rhinos left. Although the time limit seems dire, conservationists are optimistic about the chances of success considering the artificial impregnation. If all else fails, then the merging of the northern white rhinos species with the southern white rhinos seems to be a surefire success. However bumpy the road ahead may be, conversationalist group WildAid plans to do whatever they can do in their power to keep this species alive.