Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Meet Sudan, the last surviving male northern white rhino

There is a small dusty patch of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya that is marked by 18 rocky headstones. On a plaque bolted to each is the name of a rhino that has been killed by poachers.

Nearby, past watch towers manned 24 hours a day by armed guards, stands - or, these days, more often sits - a mammoth two-ton herbivore munching the grass. He is Sudan, the last surviving male northern white rhino, and quite possibly the most famous animal on the planet.

Sudan is now 43 (or 100 in rhino years) and it is feared only has months left to live. As the last male of his species, he receives 40,000 visitors a year from all over the globe, Elizabeth Hurley and Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly among them.

Sudan is also a star of Instagram and boasts his own hashtag #lastmalestanding as well as a Tinder account, where he is described as the "most eligible bachelor in the world" and, inevitably, "horny". Such is the interest in him that competing film crews are restricted to one visit a day.

Award-winning filmmaker Rowan Deacon is the latest to tell his story. In a new BBC documentary, Sudan: The Last of the Rhinos, Deacon has pieced together Sudan's fascinating life.

After being born in the wild in South Sudan, he was captured by animal trappers employed by England's Chipperfield Circus and sold to a zoo in the then-communist Czechoslovakia, before finally being shipped back to Africa in a desperate attempt to make him breed.

Even now, as Sudan sees out his last days in Kenya, scientists in Berlin are attempting novel forms of rhino IVF with his sperm. When the inevitable moment arrives, a pre-written obituary is waiting to be sent out to newsdesks around the world.

Rhinos have been on this earth for 50 million years and it is not some quirk of evolution that has caused the demise of this magnificent species, but us, humans.


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