World’s last male northern white rhino ‘gravely ill’

Death of 45-year-old animal, named Sudan, would push species to brink of extinction

Northern white rhino Sudan
Northern white rhino Sudan
(Image credit: Michal Cizek/Getty Images)

The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino is “gravely ill” and “starting to show signs of ailing”, according to convervationists.

Sudan lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya, with two female northern white rhinos, Fatu and Najin, reports CNN. They are the only three northern white rhinos in existence.

Sudan became a “global icon” in 2015 after park rangers at the reserve were forced to put him under 24-hour armed guard to protect him from poachers, The Independent reports. The 45-year-old male made headlines again last year when he “joined Tinder” as the “most eligible bachelor in the world”, in an attempt to keep the dwindling species alive.

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However, the reserve’s vets warn that after appearing to have recovering from an infection on his back right leg at the end of last year, Sudan has now developed another, “much deeper” infection in the same area, from which he is struggling to recover.

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“Everything possible is being done to help him regain his health,” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy said in a statement on Twitter.

“We are very concerned about him - he’s extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily.”

If Sudan dies, the only hope to save the species may lie in a plan by scientists to use southern white rhinos as surrogates to carry northern white rhino embryos and give birth, CBS News reports.

All species of rhino are considered to be under threat. No more than 26,543 are left in Africa, and no more than 163 in Southeast Asia, along with around 3,500 in other parts of Asia, according to Save the Rhino, a conservation charity based in Britain.

The decline of the northern white rhino population has been particularly dramatic: there were more than 2,000 in Africa as recently as 1960.

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