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The World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Is Sick, Leaving Its Species Nearly Extinct

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Sudan is a gentle giant, and the last living male of his kind in the world. Sadly, the 45-year-old Northern white rhinoceros, who lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, is gravely ill and not expected to recover from his ailing condition, reports the BBC.

The lonely rhino, whose story was shared by PEOPLE in November 2017, along with the two other known living females of his species, are protected from poachers by a 24-hour armed guard. However, even armed guards can’t save the animal from illness.

 

Ol Pejeta Sanctuary recently shared a photo of Sudan (on right) by wildlife photographer Ami Vitale who writes, “[Sudan] has developed a serious infection and his caregivers at Ol Pejeta Sanctuary (@olpejeta) are working hard to keep him healthy and comfortable. @olpej says, ‘Even though he is now old and ailing; Sudan has been an inspirational figure for many across the world for years. Thousands have trooped to Ol Pejeta to see him and he has helped raise awareness for rhino conservation to millions worldwide. The two female northern white rhinos left on the planet – Najin and Fatu – are his direct descendants. Research into new Assisted Reproductive Techniques for large mammals is underway due to him. The impact that this special animal has had on conservation is simply incredible.’ And there is still hope in the future that the subspecies might be restored through IVF.”

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Vitale goes on to detail how she followed Sudan on his journey from a Czech Republic zoo to the plains on Kenya in 2009, a last-ditch effort to save the subspecies. “It was believed that the air, water, and food, not to mention room to roam, might stimulate them to breed,” she writes, “and the offspring would then be used to repopulate Africa.”

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Unfortunately, that dream has not yet come to fruition. In 2009, there were eight Northern white rhinos alive (all in zoos), but now only three remain. Efforts towards mating either of the two surviving female rhinos failed, though a campaign (on dating app Tinder of all places) has helped fund the development of IVF for rhinos.

A recent PBS documentary also addresses Sudan’s plight:

Meanwhile, fans around the world have been distraught over recent news of Sudan’s failing condition.

On Twitter, Ol Pejeta Sanctuary updates followers on his every move.

The sanctuary assures that its veterinary team is giving him “the best possible care and monitoring him round the clock.”

On Tuesday, the group reported that Sudan was enjoying a mud bath, which they feel has lifted his spirits. Still, they say they’re “taking it one day at a time” with the rhino, and they’re “cautiously optimistic that he will respond favorably” to their vet team’s treatments.

 

The sanctuary does not expect a miracle, but it’s certainly making Sudan’s remaining days comfortable and is trying to stay hopeful. As Ol Pejeta’s CEO Richard Vigen says, “Humans do not have the right to let extinction happen. We need to change how we consume and interact with our planet.”

To learn more or donate towards Sudan’s care and the Helping Rhinos cause, click here now.

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