Literary magazine Paperclips doesn’t only tackle news about the publishing industry, authors, and books. Our team is also concerned about the state of the environment. That’s why it was a great shock for us to know that another species that our Mother Nature has nurtured for many years is currently critically endangered.

The Last Northern White Rhino Male

Meet Sudan. He belongs to the Northern White rhinoceros species that keep the balance in the savanna ecosystem. As a Northern White Rhino, Sudan is meant to have lived in the prairies of Africa. Unfortunately, thanks to unbridled poaching and war in Sudan’s homeland, the population of his species has greatly dwindled until only three of them was left. Ultimately, out of the three surviving Northern White Rhino, he is the only male while the others are females.

Close to Extinction – The Timeline

Poaching drove the extinction of these rhinos. Poachers kill off rhinoceros for their horns. While many people in the black market value rhino horns greatly simply because of the myth that these contain magic as well as healing properties, rhino horns are simply nothing but made of keratin, the exact same substance as human nails.

As early as 1960, the news about the critical extinction of these Northern White rhinos were released. By that time, there were only approximately 2000 remaining rhinos in the wild. By 1970, it came down to 700 rhinos. 1981 saw the rhino’s number go down to 350. By 2004, only seven remains.

Among the seven remaining rhinos, only Sudan and one other male rhino were left capable of breeding. Unfortunately, Suni, the other male rhino, died in 2014 due to old age, thus, effectively leaving Sudan as the only male left.

As lonely as it may sound, Sudan being the last male of his subspecies sounds an alarm that tells us how humans greatly affect other species living on Earth. These rhinos didn’t die off because of nature’s survival of the fittest law. Instead, they slowly dwindled in numbers due to human greed and apathy.

The Shocking – and Saddening – Discovery

With Sudan serving as the last beacon of hope for the Northern White rhinos, scientists and conservationist placed importance in having him breed with the two female rhinos remaining. However, this proves to be an unsuccessful attempt.

Sudan is already more than 40 years old. With a rhino’s natural lifespan being only 40-50 years, he is already at the age where it will be difficult for him to mount and mate with a female rhino. More than that, it was also found that his sperm count was considerably low.

The female rhinos’ incapacity to naturally breed were also brought to light. Najin has weak knees, thus, she is unable to endure any breeding attempts. Fatu, on the other hand, is infertile.

This piece of news is truly heartbreaking.

There is one silver lining though. A consortium of veterinarians all agree that there is still a possibility to continue the species and that is through artificial breeding.

The Last Ditch Effort

As a last ditch effort, the conservatory is now gearing up and campaigning to gather funds to breed the Northern White rhino subspecies through artificial means. In-vitro fertilization is probably the only hope there is to reproduce an offspring from Sudan.

Of course, the process is still a work in progress. It is practically the first time that scientists are trying to create an embryo of a rhino through IVF procedures. It’s a process that’ll take several attempts.

The experiment starts off by gathering Sudan’s sperm and using it to fertilize the eggs collected from three Southern White rhinos, a less rare breed and the closest living relative of the critically endangered fauna. If the fertilization is successful, the next step is to plant the fertilized egg into the ovary of a healthy Southern White female rhino.

Why Humans Should Be Desperate

Why are these scientists desperate in saving the rhinos from extinction? There’s one essential reason: they are an umbrella species. As an umbrella species, the existence of rhinos basically impacts the existence of the other flora and fauna living in the same habitat. It has been observed that rhinos serve to balance the ecosystem in the habitat they live in.

Moreover, these rhinos are charming mega-herbivores as well. Wouldn’t it be too regretful, not only for our generation but also for our succeeding generations, to lose these adorable animals?

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