Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, dies aged 45
Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, dies aged 45
When Sudan was born in 1973 in the wild in Shambe, South Sudan, there were about 700 of his kind left in existence.
At his death, there are only two females remaining alive and the hope that in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques will advance enough to preserve the sub-species.
Sudan, elderly by rhino standards, had been ailing for some time, suffering from age-related infections, according to his keepers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
“His condition worsened significantly in the last 24 hours; he was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal. The veterinary team... made the decision to euthanize him.”
Sudan lived out his final years on a 90,000-acre (36,400-hectare) reserve of savannah and woodlands in central Kenya, along with the two remaining females, under armed guard to protect them from poachers.
“We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death. He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity,” said Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO.
Ironically, Sudan’s death comes as hundreds of scientists and government envoys gather in Colombia at a biodiversity crisis summit for a global appraisal of mass species extinction.
Rhinos have few predators in the wild due to their size.
However, demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine and dagger handles in Yemen fueled a poaching crisis in the 1970s and 1980s that largely wiped out the northern white rhino population in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad.
A final remaining wild population of about 20-30 rhinos in the Democratic Republic of Congo died out during fighting in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and by 2008 the northern white rhino was considered extinct in the wild.
Modern rhinos have plodded the earth for 26 million years. As recently as the mid-19th century there were over a million in Africa. The western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011.
In the 1970s, Sudan “escaped extinction in the wild,” when he was shipped to the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
He did manage to sire two females while at the Czech zoo. His daughter Najin, 28, and her daughter Fatu, 17 are the two females left alive at Ol Pejeta.
Then in 2009, Sudan, another male and the two females were shipped to Ol Pejeta in Kenya, with high hopes that conditions similar to their native habitat would encourage breeding.
However, despite the fact that they were seen mating, there were no successful pregnancies.
Further efforts to mate a male southern white rhino with the females — and thus conserve some of the northern white genes — were also unsuccessful.
The other male rhino, Suni, died of natural causes in October 2014.
However, scientists have gathered Sudan’s genetic material and are working on developing in-vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques to preserve the subspecies.
Sudan gained worldwide fame in 2017 after he was featured on the popular dating app Tinder in an effort to raise money for the IVF procedure — which has never been done with rhinos.
The plan is to use sperm from several northern white rhino males that is stored in Berlin, and eggs from Najin and Fatu and implant the embryo — which will be created in an Italian laboratory — in a surrogate southern white female, according to Ol Pejeta.
“Sudan was the last northern white rhino that was born in the wild. His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him,” said Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo.
“But we should not give up. We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilized for conservation of critically endangered species. It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring.”
Israel demolishes Palestinian homes in Jerusalem area
- Dozens of Israeli police and military began sealing off at least four multi-story buildings in the Sur Baher area south of Jerusalem early Monday
- Palestinians accuse Israel of using security as a pretext to force them out of the area
JERUSALEM: Israeli work crews on Monday began demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes on the outskirts of an east Jerusalem neighborhood, in one of the largest operations of its kind in years.
The demolitions capped a years-long legal battle over the buildings, constructed near the invisible line straddling the city and the occupied West Bank. Israel says the buildings were erected too close to its West Bank separation barrier. Residents say the buildings are on West Bank land, and the Palestinian Authority gave them construction permits.
In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the demolitions, Israeli work crews moved into the neighborhood overnight. Massive construction vehicles smashed through the roofs of several buildings, and large excavators were digging through the rubble.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of public security, said the Supreme Court ruled the illegal construction “constitutes a severe security threat and can provide cover to suicide bombers and other terrorists hiding among civilian population.”
He said that those who built houses along the separation barrier “took the law into their own hands.”
According to the United Nations, some 20 people already living in the buildings were being displaced, while 350 owners of properties that were under construction or not yet inhabited were also affected.
In a joint statement, senior UN humanitarian officials in the region expressed “sadness” over the demolitions and warned that many other homes could face “the same fate.”
“Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law,” they said.
Hussein Al-Sheikh, head of the civil affairs department of the Palestinians Authority, called Monday’s demolition a “crime” and demanded international intervention.
In Gaza, the territory’s Hamas rulers called for intensifying “resistance” to “the Zionist settlement project.”
“The increase in the occupation’s crimes against the residents of the holy city is a result of total American support,” said Hazem Qassem, a spokesman for the militant group.
Israel captured east Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war. The international community considers both areas to be occupied territory, and the Palestinians seek them as parts of a future independent state.
Israel annexed east Jerusalem and considers it part of its capital — a step that is not internationally recognized. But the competing claims to the territory have created myriad legal complexities.
Israel built its separation barrier in the early 2000s in a move it says was needed to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from reaching Israel from the West Bank. The Palestinians say the structure is an illegal land grab because it juts into the West Bank in many places.
Sur Baher is one of those places. In negotiations with residents, Israel built the route of the structure in Sur Baher inside the West Bank to prevent dividing the village and disrupting life, according to court documents.
Residents, claiming it is impossible to get Israeli building permits in east Jerusalem, began building the apartment buildings in the West Bank part of the village with permission from the Palestinian Authority.
Early this decade, the Israeli military ordered the construction to stop, saying it could not permit high-rise buildings so close to the separation barrier.
Israel’s Supreme Court this month rejected residents’ final appeal, clearing the way for the demolitions.
According to Ir Amim, an Israeli advocacy group that promotes equality and coexistence in the city, Israel has stepped up demolitions of unauthorized Palestinian properties in east Jerusalem.
It said Israel demolished some 63 housing units in the first half of this year, compared to 37 during the same period last year. Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem say it is nearly impossible to get a building permit from Israeli authorities.
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