- Though the northern white rhino is functionally extinct – following the loss of Sudan, the last known living male, five years ago this week – conservationists are finding hope in a technique that is creating new embryos using genetic material taken from him and two remaining females.
- To mark the occasion, photographer Ami Vitale has released a new short film called “Remembering Sudan,” which will be screened at upcoming film festivals.
- The film can also be viewed online, and a trailer is visible on the page below.
- “Our fate is linked to the fate of animals,” the filmmaker told Mongabay. “What happens next is in all of our hands.”
Sudan, a 45-year-old rhino believed to be the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), died five years ago at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19, 2018. He had been battling ill health for months, and after his condition worsened considerably, veterinarians decided to euthanize him.
Since then, an international consortium of scientists and conservationists known as the BioRescue Project – a consortium made up of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Germany; Safari Park Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic; the Kenya Wildlife Service; and Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya – have been working to bring the species back from extinction through in vitro fertilization and stem cell research. They have already created 24 viable embryos using eggs from the last two female white rhinos that are still alive, and the frozen sperm of deceased male northern white rhinos like Sudan.
To mark the occasion, photographer Ami Vitale has released a new short film, Remembering Sudan, which will be screened at upcoming film festivals and can be viewed online, here’s the trailer:
Though the northern white rhino is functionally extinct following the loss of the last male of the species, conservationists like Vitale find great hope in BioRescue, and in the power of humanity to react positively:
“What happens next is in all of our hands,” Vitale told Mongabay by email when reflecting on the anniversary. “What’s going to save us all is to get beyond our routine ways of thinking. Wonder is what allows us to reimagine our future together. Wonder allows us to believe that we can fundamentally change the course we are currently on.”
“Our fate is linked to the fate of animals. Without rhinos and other wildlife, we suffer more than loss of ecosystem health. We suffer a loss of imagination, a loss of wonder, a loss of beautiful possibilities,” she said.
Readers can view the film, learn more and support the project at its website, www.rememberingsudan.org.
Banner image: A wildlife ranger comforts Sudan, the last living male northern white rhino, moments before he passed away on March 19, 2018 at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya. Photo courtesy of Ami Vitale.
See related: Additional coverage of the BioRescue program: