Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The last male Northern White Rhinoceros has died

It's been a nearly a third of a century since Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine set out on a mission to document some of the most endangered animals on Earth, a project Adams wrote about in his book Last Chance to See. Some of the animals described have maintained their numbers, or even made a slight recovery. Others, like the Baiji dolphin, have slipped away into oblivion.

The Northern White Rhinoceros, so precariously close to extinction in 1985, showed some small increase in numbers in the decade that followed. But political unrest and relentless poaching quickly reversed any gains, and numbers were reduced to the point that the Northern White Rhinoceros was declared extinct in the wild in 2008. A last-ditch effort to save the species was declared: all individuals being held safely in zoos throughout the world were recalled to their ancestral homeland, the idea being that they would be more likely to reproduce in their natural habitat. This turned out to be an enormously bad idea, as many of the repatriated rhinos were quickly picked off by poachers. The few survivors were placed under around-the-clock guard.

As of yesterday, the global population consisted on one elderly male, one sterile female, and one female incapable of bearing young. As of today, Sudan, the last living male Northern White Rhinoceros, is dead.

This is not something that just happened. We were warned. We knew what would happen. We could have taken steps to avoid this outcome. There was nothing inevitable about it, until there was.

As of yesterday, a week ago, a month ago, the Northern White Rhinoceros was effectively extinct in captivity. The three remaining individuals did not constitute a viable population by any stretch. Losing one of them does not change that reality. They were not representatives of the hope for the survival of a dying species. They were living reminders of our guilt and failure.

Now there is one less reminder.

Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhinoceros.
From the Ol Pejeta Conservancy Twitter page (https://twitter.com/OlPejeta)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are right--how we shamefully fail those who are most in need, both animals and our fellow humans.