The World's Last Male Northern White Rhino Is Fighting for His Life

There are only three northern white rhinos left in the world, and the subspecies' only male is currently fighting to survive.

Sudan the rhino has lived under the 24-hour protection of armed guards since 2009 when he first arrived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The rangers are there to protect him and two female companions (and their rhino horns) from poachers who'd like nothing more than to receive the big pay day associated with ending an entire rhino population. While Sudan has lived a relatively peaceful life at the conservancy, his advanced age is catching up to him.

At 45 years old, Sudan is considered elderly for a Northern White Rhinoceros. In human terms, he's around 90 years old, and Ol Pejeta announced last week the old male rhino's health is failing. After fighting off an age-related infection a few months ago, a secondary infection in Sudan's right hind leg is proving harder to treat.

Conservationists were originally prepared to say goodbye to Sudan last week. Ol Pejeta said on Twitter they didn't want the rhino to "suffer unnecessarily," and euthanasia was being considered. On Monday, however, Sudan's health seemed to improve. The big creature enjoyed a nice mud bath and seems to be back to walking around his territory. His caregivers say he hasn't lost the will to live and won't go down without a fight.

While Sudan fights off his infection, conservationists and scientists are battling time to come up with a way to save his subspecies. The northern white rhino is on the brink of extinction, and it's been clear for the last four years a natural pregnancy involving the aging Sudan isn't possible. The bachelor made headlines last year when he joined the app Tinder world in an effort to raise money and awareness about continuing his legacy. Sudan is incapable of mating with the two female rhinos, but advancement with in vitro fertilization (IVF) is giving scientists a glimpse of hope.

Sudan's semen is being stored under lock and key, and the plan is to one day attempt in vitro fertilization with the two much younger female rhinos. There's only a slim chance that Sudan will live to see his progeny, but for now, he's holding on to life and a better future for the northern white rhino.

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is in Central Kenya's Laikipia County, near Laikipia National Park. They also protect the world's largest black rhino population living at the conservatory from rampant poaching.


Sudan has passed away quietly, as of Monday. He was 45 years old and euthanized as his physical complications worsened.

There are now two white rhinos left on the earth.

What do you think of the future of the northern white rhino? Let us know in the comments.

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