The End of the Line for the Northern White Rhino?

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In a world consumed with one human crisis after another – mass shootings, flu pandemics and natural disasters – there is another sad drama playing out in a quiet corner of Africa. The keepers and protectors of the last remaining northern white rhinos are on death watch.

According to the keepers of these protected beasts, the last known remaining male rhino of this critically endangered subspecies is on his last legs, both literally and figuratively. Sudan, the rhino at the center of the watch, is an estimated 42 years old, which is considered quite old in the world of rhinos. He developed a serious age-related infection in one of his rear legs earlier this year which was supposedly successfully treated. Unfortunately, a second infection recently cropped up and is so far not responding to antibiotics. The infection is compromising his ability to walk and feed.

Veterinarians are closely watching the aging rhino and are considering the difficult option of euthanasia if the quality of Sudan’s life continues to decline. He is currently living on a preserve with two of the last females where it had been hoped he could breed and possibly preserve this subspecies for a few years longer. Unfortunately, there has been no successful conception for either of the two females, who are aged 25 and 15.

The rhinos are under constant armed guard in order to protect them from poachers. According to security forces, poaching of rhino horns has become even more lucrative than the drug trade. The horns are believed by many Asians to have curative powers for many different illnesses, though there is no documented proof that the effects of powdered rhino horns are anything more than a placebo.

Conservatives and researchers are exploring all of the available options for attempting to save the species from extinction, but the chances of doing anything are quickly dwindling. Thus far, neither female seems capable of successfully breeding and it is uncertain if artificial insemination would be successful, especially since the one female has weakness in her hind legs and may be unable to carry a pregnancy to term.

There has been speculations concerning trying to interbreed the Southern White Rhino, which is not currently as endangered, with either of the two remaining females. The two subspecies are not genetically alike, though it is possible that artificial insemination or fetal transplant could result in a live birth.

Sadly, this drama is playing out in more than one animal species on a regular basis. The majority of these extinctions are occurring as a result of human behavior and inability to find ways to co-exist with nature. In the worst cases, such as with the rhino, humans exploit some species for little, if any, gain. Elephants, rhinos, whales and big cats have all paid with their lives to indulge people’s desire for furs and decorative trinkets. We are to be stewards of this priceless gift of nature. How exactly are we showing our children that other species have value just for being alive?

Writer Bio:  Angela Mose

I am a mom of 7 who has successfully homeschooled for 20 years.  I was married for more than 25 years and have recently started my life over. I have a passion for writing and music and when the two can be combined, it is utopia.  A Maryland native, I am planning to relocate north in the near future and will continue to strive to learn and experience new things on a regular basis. I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home while exploring new ways to increase my knowledge and skills and help improve the lives of those around me.


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