The last male northern white rhino in the world died earlier this month in Nairobi, Kenya. The rhino, Sudan, died due to "age-related complications."
Researchers say he "stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength."
Sudan had been a part of the Ol Pejeta Conservatory's efforts to save the white rhino from total extinction "after decades of decimation by poachers." There are two surviving female white rhinos: Sudan's daughter, Najin, and her daughter, Fatu.
The 45-year-old rhino was euthanized after his conitioned worsened to the point where he could no longer stand. According to NBC News, "His muscles and bones had degenerated and his skin had extensive wounds, with a deep infection on his back right leg."
The conservatory assures everyone that Sudan's passing will not impact their efforts to save the species. Their focus will turn "to in vitro fertilization techniques using stored semen from other dead rhinos and eggs extracted from the two remaining females."
Named after his birthplace, Sudan attracted thousands of visitors and families to the conservatory. During a fundraiser last year, he was even named "The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World."
"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 the conservancy's CEO, Richard Vigne.
Although the conservatory claims they are refocusing their efforts, the truth is in vitro is their only real option, now. With the death of Sudan, there are no more male white rhinos to help reproduce. Researchers can only hope the "in vitro techniques using eggs from the two remaining females [and] stored northern white rhino semen" will be enough. They also say they will use surrogate mothers from the southern white rhino population.
To date, only about 20,000 southern white rhinos remain in Africa. According to NBC, those numbers "dipped below 100 [thousand] around a century ago." Conservation efforts hope to turn these numbers around.
Rhinos, but especially southern white rhinos and black rhinos, are heavily poached for their horns, which are then sold illegally.
Rest in peace, Sudan.