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Facing Extinction

Photographer: Dai Kurokawa


Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a home to three - one male and two females - of the last five remaining rhino subspecies on the planet. The other two, both females, are in the Czech Republic and the USA. In October 2014, one of the last two remaining male northern whites, Suni, died at Ol Pejeta. Another male, Angalifu, died in the San Diego zoo barely two months after, leaving the subspecies in the face of extinction with only five remaining in the entire world. Forty-year-old Sudan, the very last male now living in Ol Pejeta, is deemed too old to mountain a female so therefore the scientists and conservationists have concluded that the natural reproduction is impossible. They have decided to resort to artificial reproduction techniques as a last-ditch effort to save the northern whites from extinction.


The scientists will start by harvesting egg and sperm samples to be stored until the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) techniques are developed and tested enough to be used with a surrogate southern white rhino, the only rhino subspecies that is non-endangered with an estimated population of 20,000 animals. Experts say that even if the IVF techniques will be developed for the successful artificial reproduction in the future, the northern whites will most likely be extinct in a few years, for now.


According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than 2,000 northern white rhinos were remaining as late as 1960. However, a massive surge in poaching has left the world with only 15 animals in 1980, and only five by year 2015. In Kenya, 54 rhinos have been killed by poachers in 2014, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). The world celebrated the World Wildlife Day on 03 March 2015, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message- ‘Its time to get serious about wildlife crime’.