Surrounded by armed guards for 24 hours a day, the last male northern white rhino has been under some of the most secure protection the world has seen for an animal. But it is for good reason.
Without this one rhino, the entire northern white rhino species would gradually fade away into extinction.
Since 2009, the rhino, named Sudan, has lived on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya with two female northern white rhinos who, when combined, make up the entirety of their species remaining on Earth.
Conservationists thought that putting the last three northern white rhinos into a place where they could be protected and feel safe would help them be able to start reproducing again, but a child has still not been able to be conceived. And since Sudan is now 45 years old, time is quickly running out.
But there was yet another complication with the male.
In 2017, Sudan developed a sore on his leg that had posed a significant risk to his life.
“Sudan developed an uncomfortable age-related infection on his back right leg,” Ol Pejeta said in a statement. “Thanks to a team of vets who acted fast, that infection was treated and appeared to heal. He resumed normal movement and foraging habits over January up to mid-February, with his demeanor and general activity improving significantly.”
Despite making a speedy recovery from the last infection, Sudan has recently developed another infection that has gone much deeper than the first.
“This has been treated, but worryingly, the infection is taking longer to recover, despite the best efforts of his team of vets who are giving him 24-hour care, with everything possible being done to help him regain his health,” Ol Pejeta said.
Even with the best efforts of his caretakers, Sudan and his two potential mates would not reproduce naturally. Because of this, the team behind keeping this extremely rare subspecies of rhinos in existence has tried almost everything to ensure the survival of the species.
But now, with yet another complication to the male’s health, the future is looking extremely dim for the northern white rhinos.
“We are very concerned about him,” Ol Pejeta said. “He’s extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily.”
Many animals like Sudan have been forced into conservation efforts to help keep certain species alive, and yet the Endangered Species Act that tries to help protect these animals from extinction remains under threat from the current government.
To see how you can make your voice heard and help the creatures that need it most, check out the information below.
Andrew Terpstra grew up on Zoobooks and National Park excursions, so the outdoors and wildlife became a big part of his life. Now he is trying to help whomever he can, and the causes he holds dear, with the words he writes.