The Plight of the Last Male Northern White Rhino

The Northern White Rhino is nearing extinction after two males died at the tail end of last year - leaving just one elderly male, known as Sudan. The beautiful Sudan is protected 24 hours a day by armed guards and has been stripped of his horn to make him less attractive to poachers.

There are four female Northern White Rhinos left in the world, Najin and Fatu live with Sudan at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The other two live in San Diego Zoo and in the Czech Republic.

Before they neared extinction, Northern White Rhinos could be found throughout the Central African Republic, Southern Chad, South-west Sudan, north-west Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Towards the end of 1960, there was just over 2000 Northern White Rhinos in existence, but rather sadly – and very cruelly, there was only 15 left by 1984. Thank you poachers!

Why are Northern White Rhinos so near to extinction?

Rhinos have existed for almost 40 million years and the main reason they are endangered is human poaching. That's right, even in a widely educated world, poaching is rife and many people are only but willing to pay a high price for horns. Rhino horns are used in Chinese medicine, gifts in Vietnam and quack cures by criminal gangs.

If human poaching isn't enough to contend with, rhinos also seem to fight a losing battle as their homes are often destroyed by pollution, land encroachment and illegal logging.

The future for the Northern White Rhino

With just five remaining Northern White Rhinos in the world the future looks very bleak for the sub-species. Sudan is too old to mate naturally by mounting the females and his sperm is of a low quality. Further to this, one of the females, Najin has hind legs that are too weak to carry the weight of being mounted by a male. Najin's daughters, Fatu and Nabire in the Czech Republic both have uterus problems and the remaining female Nola who lives in San Diego has passed reproductive age.

However, with genetic material currently being collected from the remaining Northern White Rhinos; there are hopes for future breeding interventions. There is also hope that Najin and Fatu could be paired with a Southern White Rhino male to produce inter-crossed offspring – a new species if you will.

Sadly it's not just the Northern White Rhino who are facing extinction: other species of rhino are also in grave danger. In 2011 the Western Black Rhino was confirmed as extinct and the Javan Rhino from Vietnam is also no more.