Most northern white rhinos were wiped out by poaching in the 1970s and ’80s, according to the conservancy’s statement, and by 2008 the subspecies was considered extinct in the wild. The Associated Press notes that Sudan took his name from the country where he was born; he was captured as a calf and kept in a Czech zoo until 2009, when he and other remaining members of the species were transferred to the Kenyan conservancy. He was 45 when he died, and caretakers made the decision to euthanize him because he was in pain and unable to stand.
His death “is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him. But we should not give up,” Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, tells the AP. “It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring.”
Scientists have harvested Sudan’s sperm, and that of other male white rhinos, prior to their deaths, NPR explains. Neither of the living females is capable of reproducing, but researchers hope to use their eggs to create embryos that could be implanted into southern white rhino females, which would act as surrogate mothers.
Correction (March 21): The original version of this article erroneously stated that the northern white rhino is a species; it has been corrected to reflect the fact that it is a subspecies. The Scientist regrets the error.