Goodbye, Sudan - The Last Male White Rhino

On March 19, 2018, the world said goodbye to its last male northern white rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum, Sudan. Sudan died at 45 years old, not due to old age but instead due to an infection in his foot, leading his handlers to euthanize him to end his suffering. He is survived by two female northern white rhinos, but with his death came the effective extinction of his species. In 1960, there were an estimated 2000 northern white rhinos on Earth, generally located on African plains, but human hands decimated those numbers through poaching, effectively destroying a beautiful species. With this shocking and saddening death, it brings into perspective again the importance of preserving the life on earth and preventing the legalization of poaching.

To reduce a population of a species so significantly, there was clearly a great price on their heads. The northern white rhino once existed in great numbers in southern Chad, southwestern Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northwestern Uganda. Until March 19th, only three remained in a conservation center in Kenya called Ol Pejeta conservancy. When the rhinos were in their prime, poachers were able to sell their horns for around $50,000 per kilogram. The poaching of rhinos for the purpose of obtaining their horns is what drove the species to extinction. The horns are multipurpose and used by many cultures, typically ground up for use in medicines or in nefarious purposes.

Poaching has been a crisis across the world for a variety of species for years. Rhino poaching skyrocketed in the early 2000s, which hundreds of rhinos being killed per year. Failure of nations to establish controls in their regions to stop and fine poachers is what allowed this problem to become as disastrous as it now has.

The topic of poaching and the hunting of prize animals has arisen in contemporary political discussions as of late, one driving factor being that President Donald Trump lifted a ban on importing sport-hunted trophies of elephants from certain African countries into the United States. This act removed a great deal of protection of some species of elephants, as there is now increased incentive for poachers to hunt these creatures. This is only one example of questionable policies that are continually putting at-risk species in even more threat of endangerment; it is these lack of protections that have decimated the white rhino population.

Although things seem very bleak for Ceratotherium simum, there is still small hope of artificial insemination of the remaining two female rhinos, although this could be difficult due to their old age. Another possibility that was being considered was the option of cross breeding the northern white rhino with the southern white rhino, whose population is not as desolate. Scientist are currently in the works of devising a plan to preserve this species in any way possible.

The end of this beautiful species has been a devastating blow to the ecological world.  This is not the first time homo sapiens have been responsible for ending a species, and unfortunately it will most likely not be the last, not until better constraints are implemented to stop poaching. An event such as this one should serve as a catalyst for change in policy. But the death of Sudan also serves as a humbling reminder to us all that we were not the first species on this planet, and it is our duty to preserve the many others by implementing policies that cease the needless killing of species such as these.