Last year on Tinder, he described himself as the “world’s most eligible bachelor”. Never mind that his large three-toed hooves would have made swiping on the dating app virtually impossible for Sudan. “I am the last white male rhino on planet earth. I don’t mean to be too forward, but the fate of my species depends on me,” he declared on his profile page. Sudan died on Tuesday, his call for a mate unanswered. The endeavour was in, any case, doomed. At 45, Sudan was too old to procreate. Moreover, researchers had given up on locating the Northern White Rhino in the wild in 2008. Sudan survived the fate of his cousins thanks to his sojourn in zoos in Europe, and then in a high-security conservancy in Kenya. His death means that Sudan’s daughter, Najin, and his granddaughter, Fatu, are the only remaining representatives of his species. Neither was born in the wild.
The near extinction of the Northern White Rhino is not the result of an evolutionary quirk. It’s a reminder that when humans fight, they end up hurting animals as well. Sudan’s kin were caught in the crossfire of the several armed conflicts in Central Africa, poached and hunted to decimation. An article in the journal Nature in January points out that more than 70 per cent of Africa’s wildlife parks were affected by wars between 1946 and 2010. The animals were exposed to bombs and landmines, ivory and bushmeat were, very often, used to raise finances for militias, wildlife departments crumbled during conflicts and enforcement efforts waned, leading to more poaching. Conservationists, by and large, steered clear of war zones.
Sudan might still have found a way to redeem humankind from its failure. The gentle giant’s tryst with Tinder has precipitated a generous outflow of funds for research on assisted reproductive technologies to revive the Northern White Rhino population. If they don’t succeed, another majestic species would have been brought to its knees by the ways of humankind.