Final moments of Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, documented in photos

Written by on March 21, 2018 in Rare Critters - No comments

Nearly a decade ago, Ami Vitale documented the drive to save the northern white rhino.

At the time, there were eight members of the species left on Earth and there was a move to gather them in the protected wilds of Kenya.

This week, the National Geographic photographer travelled there to witness the death of Sudan, the last male member of the species.

“With a heavy heart, I share this news and hope that Sudan’s legacy will awaken us to protect this magnificent and fragile planet. Yesterday, Zachariah Mutai comforted Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino moments before he passed away,” she posted on Instagram Tuesday.

Now, there are just two northern white rhinos left. Both are female and both are related to Sudan.

“I had the privilege of following this gentle hulking creature on his journey from the snowy Dvur Kralov in the Czech Republic to the warm plains of Kenya, when he was transported with three of his fellow Northern White Rhinos in a last ditch effort to save the subspecies,” Vitale wrote.

Photo by @amivitale. In December 2009, I heard about a plan to airlift four of the last Northern White Rhinos from a zoo in the Czech Republic back to Africa. It sounded like a storyline for a Disney film but in reality, it was a desperate, last ditch effort to save an entire species. Back then, there were only eight of these gentle, hulking creatures alive, all in zoos. This image is one of the rhinos leaving the zoo forever on a cold, snowy night. They landed and were brought to roam “free” on the savannas of Kenya at Ol Pejeta Conservancy (@olpejeta). The hope was then to breed them. The air, water, and food, not to mention room to roam, might stimulate them to breed—and the offspring would then be used to repopulate Africa. On March 19th, Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino passed away. He lived a long, healthy life at the conservancy and died surrounded by people who loved him after suffering from age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds. Sudan has been an inspirational figure for many across the world. Thousands have trooped to Ol Pejeta to see him and he has helped raise awareness for rhino conservation. 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. Support this important work: http://donate.olpejetaconservancy.org/projects/sudan Poaching is not slowing down, and it’s entirely possible, even likely, that if the current trajectory of killing continues, rhinos, along with elephants and a host of lesser known plains animals, will be functionally extinct in our lifetime. @natgeo @natgeocreative @olpejeta@kenyawildlifeservice @thephotosociety #LastManStanding #SudanForever #WorthMoreAlive #OlPejetaRhinos #NorthernWhiteRhinos #protectrhinos #DontLetThemDisappear #rhinos #saverhinos #stoppoaching #kenya #northernkenya #africa #everydayafrica #photojournalism #amivitale @nikonusa @nature_org #thelastmanstanding @Nature_africa

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“Today,” Vitale added. “We are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind.”

Photo by @amivitale With a heavy heart, I share this news and hope that Sudan’s legacy will awaken us to protect this magnificent and fragile planet. Yesterday, Zachariah Mutai comforted Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhino moments before he passed away. Sudan lived a long, healthy life at the conservancy after he was brought to Kenya from @safari_park_dvur_kralov in the #czechrepublic in 2009. He died surrounded by people who loved him at @olpejeta after suffering from age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds. Sudan has been an inspirational figure for many across the world. Thousands have trooped to Ol Pejeta to see him and he has helped raise awareness for rhino conservation. The two female northern white rhinos left on the planet 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. Support this important work: http://donate.olpejetaconservancy.org/projects/sudan I had the privilege of following this gentle hulking creature on his journey from the snowy Dvur Kralov in the Czech Republic to the warm plains of Kenya, when he was transported with three of his fellow Northern White Rhinos in 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—and the offspring would then be used to repopulate Africa. At the time, there were 8 Northern white rhinos alive, all in zoos. Today, we are witnessing the extinction of a species that had survived for millions of years but could not survive mankind. @natgeo @natgeocreative @olpejeta @kenyawildlifeservice @thephotosociety  #LastManStanding #SudanForever#WorthMoreAlive #OlPejetaRhinos#NorthernWhiteRhinos #protectrhinos #DontLetThemDisappear #rhinos #saverhinos #stoppoaching #kenya #northernkenya #africa #everydayafrica #photojournalism #amivitale @nikonusa @nature_org  #thelastmanstanding

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His was an incredible life.

Photo Ami Vitale/Instagram

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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