Fifty-five years ago, it was estimated that more than 2,000 Northern White Rhinoceros roamed the wild.
About 15 years after that estimate, Sudan the rhinoceros was born, making him about 40 years old today. By 1984, he was one of barely over a dozen. Today, he is one of only five, and he also happens to be the last male Northern White Rhinoceros on the planet. His species has been nearly wiped off the face of the planet, not by epidemic, not by climate change, and not by habitat loss, but because of his horn.
Traditional medicines’ demand for the rare horn has jacked up the price, and powdered horn can fetch up to $75,000 per kilogram. Poachers, aiming for the easy money, shoot these majestic creatures and cut off the prize horn, often while the animal is still taking his dying breaths. Useless, the rest of the rhinoceros’ carcass is simply left to rot in the scorching Kenyan sun.
To protect the species, park rangers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya, have taken serious measures to protect Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhinoceros in the world. First, he’s been fitted with radio tracking equipment, to keep track of his whereabouts. Second, he’s been placed under armed guard, 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Finally, adding insult to injury, they’ve gone so far as to remove his horns, “purely to keep him safe,” Elodie Sampere says, “If the rhinoceros has no horn, he is of no interest to poachers.”
The hope is that Sudan may be able to breed and continue to species. However, considering that rhinoceros tend to live only 35 to 50 years, in the wild, Sudan and his entire species are living on borrowed time. Thanks to poachers, Northern White Rhinoceros might only be known to our children from history books.