Last surviving male northern white rhino shows signs of ailing

The last surviving male northern white rhino named 'Sudan' grazes at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia national park, Kenya June 14, 2015. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File

The northern white rhinoceros is moving closer to extinction, as the only surviving male of the species has shown signs of being gravely ill, according to conservationists.

The white rhino is named Sudan and lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where it has resided since 2009. At 45 years old, the animal is already considered very old for his species, and he has started to show signs of ailing.

“His health has begun deteriorating, and his future is not looking bright,” said the preserve in a Twitter post.

At the end of 2017, Sudan developed an age-related infection on his right hind leg. After being assessed by veterinarians around the world, Sudan responded well to treatments and was able to go back to his normal movement routines.

However, the white rhino recently developed a worse infection, which was discovered beneath the first one. The male rhino is taking longer to recover despite being attended to 24 hours a day by a team of veterinarians.

“We are very concerned about him — he’s extremely old for a rhino and we do not want him to suffer unnecessarily,” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy added. Northern white rhinos usually live up to around 40 years old on average. Those who live in captivity, like Sudan, could survive longer.

Although the rhino can still feed and walk around a little, officials at the reserve have said that euthanasia will be explored if they feel that Sudan is suffering too much without no hope of recovery.

Aside from Sudan, there are only two surviving northern white rhinos in the world, both of which are female: 28-year-old Najin and her daughter, 17-year old Fatu. Both live at the reserve in Kenya. Unfortunately, health problems and age have prevented them from reproducing.

“This is a distinct lineage of white rhino,” said Barbara Durrant, the director or reproductive sciences at the San Diego Zoo Global. “The loss of a population, especially of a mega vertebrae like a rhino … is a significant loss in terms of genetic diversity.”