Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on Earth, dies at 45

March 20, 2018, 9:06 a.m.

This older gentleman was a celebrity figure for his species, but for an unfortunate reason. His name was Sudan, and he was the very last male northern white rhino in the world. He resided at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya with armed guards protecting him 24/7.

And unfortunately, Sudan's health has not been robust. In late 2017, he developed an age-related infection in one of his hind leg, which was treated. The infection cleared, and he was back to normal health by January. However in recent weeks, a second and deeper infection was discovered on the same leg. This new infection was treated but it was not quick to heal. Sudan was unable to walk anymore and was suffering immensely. Therefore, his veterinary team decided to euthanize him.

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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_kralove 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: 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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Last hope for the species

The conservancy says the only hope now is in-vitro fertilization "using eggs from the two remaining females, stored northern white rhino semen from males and surrogate southern white rhino females."

The two remaining females are Sudan's daughter and granddaughter — Najin and Fatu.

In 2017, Sudan became famous for joining Tinder at the age of 43 in a last-ditch effort to find a mate.

Obstacles such as old age and low fertility keep the rhinos from procreating naturally.

The Tinder profile was a way to raise publicity and funding for in-vitro fertilization, which is the only possible way to breed the last members of the species due to age and health concerns. But if IVF procedures work, then conservationists could potentially bring back northern white rhinos to the wild in a matter of decades. Unfortunately, it's a very, very big "if."

Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in August 2017.