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VMDIFF 2020 / Kifaru – The rhino’s last stand

By Conservation, Education No Comments
Scout Mitchell, Headstuff | March 11, 2020

See link for photo & videos.

We’ve all read the headlines and watched the David Attenborough documentaries. By now it should be no secret that human greed has catapulted our world into the midst of an extinction crisis.

The facts are devastating. According to the World Wildlife Fund scientists are estimating that between 0.01% and 0.1% of species are becoming extinct each year (that’s between 200 and 2,000 on the lower rate and 10,000 and 100,000 on the higher estimate). It’s truly infuriating to ask ourselves how we’ve let it get this far. And even scarier to ask the question: Is there any going back?

Documentary filmmaker David Hambridge offers an incredibly personal insight into this topic in Kifaru, which tells the story of the last standing male white rhino, Sudan, and his caretakers who are dedicated to fighting for his species. The connection between humans and animals, the reality of animal poaching and what it means to be a “free” animal are all ideas that are explored in this documentary. Somehow both heartbreaking and encouraging, Kifaru documents the urgency of wildlife conservation through the eyes of those willing to make sacrifices for these beautiful animals.

Captured over approximately four years, the majority of Kifaru is set in the Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy located in central Kenya. “Kifaru” is Swahili for rhinos and these animals are the main focus of this film: Sudan, his daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu. At the film’s beginning, these are the only three white rhinos left in the world. They live under 24-hour surveillance at the conservancy. The risk of poachers is far too high should they be released into the wild.

Sudan is named after his place of birth and was originally rescued and relocated to a zoo in the Czech Republic. In his old age he was moved to Ol Pejeta along with his captive-raised daughter and her offspring.

It’s clear that these animals don’t have the freedom they deserve and it’s dangerous that they are so trusting of the humans who look after them. But the facts are that the commercial value of rhino horn is incredibly high in a country where many families are surviving on the equivalent of $1 USD a day. Freedom is not an option for these animals so Ol Pejeta is the next best thing. Jojo (Joseph) and Jacob are amongst some of the caretakers we get to know in this film who have pledged their lives to the wellbeing and survival of these rhinos.

It’s by no means an easy job. Working on the range for 10 months of the year is hard. Jojo makes the point that he often feels like a stranger in his own home upon return. We see the impact that this kind of living has on these men.

Jojo is anxious to be near the maternity ward for the birth of his first child and Jacob struggles to pay the fees for his son’s education — he manages to make up enough to ensure his son will remain in school until at least the next time he is home from Ol Pejeta. These men make a lot of sacrifices in order to do the work that they do. However, it’s clear that the connection they have to the rhinos makes the hardship worthwhile.

Early on in the documentary, they are alerted to sightings of an orphaned baby rhino and immediately take in ‘Ringo,’ a young male who struggles with the absence of his mother. Eventually the other rhinos warm to him: this is due to the persistence of Jojo who makes sure that Ringo remembers that he is, in fact, a rhino and needs to learn to act like one. It’s the perseverance of these men that means these animals have any chance of survival.

The conservancy also gets a lot of tourists, eager to catch sightings of the last standing male white rhino. You could say Sudan is somewhat of a celebrity. The caretakers welcome such tourism as it gives them business and it raises awareness of Sudan’s predicament. However, when watching this film it’s hard not to be reminded that age is something one cannot defy. At 45 years old, Sudan has already outlived the average life-span of a rhino.

All of the publicity and awareness resulting from tourism can’t freeze his youth. The caretakers are aware of this and it’s in the back of their minds as he continues to get older and develop health issues. One of the goals of their care is to allow enough time for scientists to be able to develop a method that would allow them to clone the species from Sudan’s DNA. It may seem unorthodox, but science may allow us a chance to undo the mess we ourselves have created.

A heart-rending but necessary watch for anyone who feels passionate about wildlife conservation. Kifaru is not afraid to shine the light on the ugly parts of our society: that of an excessive greed for wealth. This is the resulting impact.

Kifaru screened at this year’s Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival.

Can science save the last two white rhinos left on the planet? (Kenya)

By Conservation, Science and technology No Comments
Zeenat Hansrod & Sébastien Nemeth, RFI | March 4, 2020

See link for related 6-minute audio, photos & video.

Northern white rhinos no longer exist in the wild. The last two remaining female individuals are under constant surveillance in Kenya while scientists are working on groundbreaking techniques to save the species from complete extinction.

Najin and her daughter Fatu are under intense surveillance in their 700-acre (about 280-hectare) enclosure at the Ol Pejeta conservancy near the town of Nanyuki, on the equator in central Kenya. Their head caregiver, Zacharia Mutai, says his team considers them as family members.

“We know them very well and must ensure that they are healthy and well looked after.

“Having the last two is something very serious. We are trying all our best to protect and preserve them. We don’t want to face extinction any more.”

Mutai was the caregiver of Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, which died in 2018.

The two remaining females, 31-year-old Najin and 20-year-old Fatu, are clinically infertile and cannot carry a pregnancy. Furthermore, Najin has a large tumour on her right ovary and Fatin has a damaged uterus.

Original photo as published by RFI: Najin (L) and Fatu (R) are the last two northen white rhinos in the world. The two female rhinos at the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya. (Ami Vitale/BioRescue)

Groundbreaking Techniques

In order to save the species from extinction, scientists are working on artificial reproduction techniques which have never been attempted with rhinoceros before.

The efforts are pioneered by the BioRescue project at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) in Germany. The team of international scientists are using in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and stem cell technology for reproduction purposes.

“We have collected a lot of semen from four different northern white rhino bulls over the last 20 years,” says Professor Thomas Hildebrandt who heads the BioRescue project.

“This frozen semen allows us to do in vitro fertilisation and we hope to combine that approach together with groundbreaking stem cell technology.”

Hildebrandt, a veterinarian specialised in the reproduction of wild animals, hopes that the combined technology will help produce a viable population that could be released into the wild within 15 to 20 years.

Last year, in a unique procedure at the Ol Pejeta conservancy, his team managed to collect the eggs from Fatu and Najin, but only three embryos from Fatu’s eggs have managed to survive.

“Our goal is to produce the first offspring of the northern white rhino with IVF technique as soon as possible so that this baby can learn how to be a northern white rhino from Najin and Fatu.

“So, our timeline for that is about three years from now,” he added.

The embryos are ready for transfer into surrogate southern white rhinos mothers. Hildebrandt hopes that it will happen before the end of 2020. It will then be followed by a gestation period of 16 months.

Meanwhile in Kenya, Stephen Ngulu, the wildlife vet at the Ol Pejeta conservancy, told RFI that Najin and Fatu are scrupulously monitored.

“I have to observe their walking, their skin, check the eyes, teeth, feet or any wounds. I collect blood and we will test for various parasites, bacterial and viral diseases.”

Stem Cell Technology to Save Endangered Species

“The stem cell approach is needed because we need a gene pool large enough to create a solid, viable population of northern white rhinoceros,” said Hildebrandt, who has spent the last 20 years working with the northern white rhinos.

The technique, inspired by the work of the 2012 Nobel Prize-winning stem cell biologist Shinya Yamanaka, has only been performed on lab mice, but “nobody has been capable, so far, to do that with two-ton species like the rhino.”

The scientists are using stem cell technology to create eggs and sperm from deceased northern white rhinos.

“We have not only harvested sperms from the four different northern white rhino bulls but we also collected skin samples from 12 unrelated individuals.

“We have the best scientists on board and we hope to make significant progress in this field in the next three to five years,” Hildebrandt told RFI.

“It is very ambitious, but without dreams you can’t change the world.”

24/7 Armed Surveillance

The northern white rhino is endemic to swamp areas extending over Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Chad.

Extensive poaching and civil war led to their near extinction. Najin and Fatu were born in captivity and brought to Kenya in 2009 from the Dvur Kralove Safari Park in the Czech Republic.

The world’s two remaining northern white rhinos live under the constant surveillance of 42 armed guards from the National Police Reservists.

“We have a system where we can track the walkie talkies of the patrols. We have night vision, we have thermal images,” explains Emilio Gichuki at the Ol Pejeta conservancy.

He added that poaching is still an acute problem which they are trying to resolve by involving the neighbouring communities.

 

This vital anti-poaching school needs our support (Kenya)

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Education, Illegal trade No Comments
Cyril Christo, Opinion Contributor to The Hill | February 27, 2020

See link for photos & 4-minute video.

“I do not want to live on a planet where there are no lions anymore.” —Werner Herzog

I had the honor of finally meeting Bill Clark, an honorary warden of the Kenya Wildlife Service, at the first global march for elephants in New York in October 2013, initiated by the world beloved Dame Daphne Sheldrick who has rescued rhino and elephant orphans from the bush in Kenya for half a century. Bill has been at the forefront of anti-poaching for two generations and has invested utter dedication to combating the world’s ivory syndicates and black marketers in Africa and worldwide.

Some 60 percent of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in our lifetime, including one-third of its remaining elephants in the past decade. Bill has helped major operations against poachers and personally helped oversee the latest phase of one of the top law enforcement agencies in all of Africa, the Manyani Law Enforcement Academy in Tsavo, a life-support system for rangers in Kenya, which has the best anti-poaching record of any country on the continent. It trains rangers in countries bordering Kenya from Sudan to Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia and even far away Gabon. Started in the 1980s by the Kenya Wildlife Service, the battle for what remains of Africa’s and the world’s wildlife is now being waged.

Original photo as published by The Hill. (Photo: Cyril Christo)

The ivory trade has decimated elephants continentwide. Some 130,000 elephants, a third of Africa’s elephants, were massacred last decade, 55,000 or so in Tanzania. Yet perhaps no other species has had such a widespread ecological impact or is so necessary for savanna and forest rejuvenation and indispensable to countless other species.
But the rhino, too, stands on extremely fragile legs and the great roar of the lion could within 15 years be silenced forever. Depraved trophy hunters worldwide, whether they have a tiger in their sights or a giraffe, are abetting the destruction of the innocent. As Romain Gary once wrote, “On an entirely man-made planet, there will be no room for man either. All that will be left of us is robots.”

The Manyani school is fighting so that never happens.

The Manyani school, which means “many baboons” in the Wakamba language of southern Kenya, seeks philanthropic individuals who can address the decline of wildlife populations with donations. From the decimation of orangutan habit in the forests in Indonesia for palm oil, which ends up in our shampoo and cookies, to the flaying of the Amazon for cattle and soybeans, to the expansion of lumber extraction and palm oil plantations in the middle of the Congo, to imposing dams that threaten chimpanzee habitat in Guinea and the entire Selous reserve in southern Tanzania, the largest in Africa, humanity has totally imposed its will on the planet.

The sixth extinction, fueled by climate change, is becoming our legacy to future generations. Poachers and the illegal wildlife trade add a diabolical dimension of loss to already severely reduced wildlife populations, which will now be impacted by climate change. What will remain in a generation or two?

When rangers go out in the field they need to have the proper equipment, they need to have been trained so their presence acts as a major deterrent to would-be poachers. But the Manyani school needs financial support with infrastructure and curriculum development. There is a powerful and unique ethos the Manyani school seeks to instill that can be a model for Africa as a whole. When elephants are damaging corn fields and locals ask for help from Kenya Wildlife Service, the response is based on benevolence that seeks the best results with the least damage to elephants. Its institutional spirit is second to none and its ethos is one of trust. Its ethic seeks to lean away from a military boot camp to one of disciplined law enforcement.

Patrol aircraft also serve as deterrents, so that criminals realize resistance is futile. Good aircraft which can cover thousands of square kilometers from the far north to Tsavo and Amboseli in the south cost many tens of thousands of dollars. For most of this decade it has been a war, a war waged for what remains of Africa, and it is a war that must be won.

Already in the past decade, a third of Africa’s elephants have been lost, mercilessly destroyed by wanton criminals looking to sell ivory at the highest price. Even though China decided to close its markets in late 2017, Hong Kong and other south Asian countries have yet to do so. The illicit trade continues. The Manyani school serves as the highest example of what is possible to commander operations in the field and to protect what remains of the wild.

It is fair to say that without the elephants and whales humanity will collapse upon itself. We will have become another species. One ranger who daily risks his life to protect elephants — despite having lost his grandfather to an elephant — told us he is dedicated to saving the species. He said, “A world without elephants is a world without oxygen.” The Manyani rangers have received some support for the barracks they need to live in and train. They need more: field equipment, night vision goggles and even airplanes for patrolling the wilderness. Better facilities and running water is needed as never before. Those sacrificing their very lives and families to protect rhinos, lions and elephants in the bush are the heroes of our time.

It is a strange period of history when indigenous activists fighting for the future of their forests, their very environment, for life on earth are being killed by the dozens every year from the Philippines, to the Congo, Brazil and Mexico. It is sobering to realize that these people are fighting not only for their homeland, but also for our very place on earth. If we lose the other species it will no longer be worth being on this earth.

I invite those with conservation interests to contact Bill Clark working with the NGO Friends of Animals. He can be contacted at bill.clark.oasis@gmail.com. The next generation of children cannot be told we lost the lion or the cheetah or giraffe because we did not have the vision or fortitude to fight. One Samburu elder told me, “Without the elephants and the other species, we will lose our minds! There will be nothing to return to. All that will be left is to kill ourselves.”

It is time to fight and take a stance and give for the children of the future, both human and nonhuman. The Manyani school, with no equal in Africa, is fighting for what remains of the great Pleistocene megafauna that still inhabit the cradle of man. The Manyani school houses and trains those very rangers who will help Africa hold on to what remains of her priceless treasure, her wildlife.

When I was first in Kenya as a teenager of 15, the massacre of the innocents, the devastation that was imposed on Africa’s elephants had not yet begun. There were more than 1.2 million elephants then. Today, no more than 350,000 savanna elephants remain and poaching continues.

Some 40 percent of the giraffe population has been lost in the past 20 years and over 90 percent of the lions. The rhino is holding on for dear life. Supporting the Manyani school is a concrete vote for the future, because without the other beings, we will have no ballast. We will self cannibalize.

Those who have the means must support the rangers dedicating their lives to the animals, beings who were our first teachers. We have been awed by their power and grace, emotionally and spiritually for millennia. If the machine is the only thing we as adults will be able to bequeath the next generation, we will have lost the children. Without the animals, as the ecologist Paul Shepard expressed, the horizon on our future will close.

Manyani is a unique model for rangers across the continent. Extinction is the most unholy definition of our time. The only extinction created by man. We have to be held accountable. Because in the end, all the money in the world won’t bring back the tiger, the whales, the frogs, the elephant and yes even the insects whose populations are diminishing across the globe.

We must forge a clear vision of what we have become on this small planet and what we ultimately want to be as a species, because our very place on earth lies in the balance. The window to reverse course is closing fast and much depends on this decade, perhaps the last in which we can salvage not only the countless species that make up the tapestry of life, but also our souls. We won’t be given a second chance.

Learn more about Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson’s work at their website.

 

Moving photo of Kenyan warden with last male white rhino Sudan listed among decade’s powerful images

By Conservation No Comments
Janet Ruto, Tuko | January 28, 2020

Read the original story here

A moving photo of a Kenyan warden with the last male white rhino, Sudan, has been listed among the last decade’s powerful images.

The photo was captured in 2018 by Ami Vitale, an American journalist, at Ol Pejeta Conservancy where she watched Joseph Wachira, one of Sudan’s care takers, lean in to offer the animal one final ear rub before his death.

Original photo as published by Tuko: A Moving photo of Kenyan warden with the last male white rhino Sudan, has been listed among the last decade’s powerful images. Photo: National Geographic.

In a Facebook post on Monday, January 27, Ol Pejeta Conservancy said it was delighted the photo was recognised as one of the decade’s best by National Geographic.

“Super delighted that this incredible photo of our very own Joseph Wachira saying goodbye to Sudan made it to National Geographic’s most powerful photographs of the past decade! Thank you to renowned photographer Ami Vitale for capturing this delicate final moment. We shall never forget what was lost shortly after,” the post read.

Sudan died on Monday, March 19, 2018, aged 45 after suffering from old-age complications. Conservationists had fortunately managed to extract his genetic materials for future reproduction of the species.

On Thursday, August 22, 2019, scientists created two embryos from the species in an Italian laboratory as conservationists’ attempt to save the species from extinction.

 

Audio: Ami Vitale on how meeting Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, changed her life

By Conservation No Comments
Mike Gaworecki, Mongabay | January 7, 2020

On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast, we speak with Ami Vitale, a photographer for National Geographic who documented the death of the last male northern white rhino, Sudan.

Ami Vitale’s work for National Geographic magazine and many other publications has taken her to over 100 countries and won her numerous awards. She’s been named Magazine Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographer’s Association, received the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting, and won five prizes from World Press Photos, including 1st Prize for her story about the first ever community owned and operated elephant sanctuary in Africa.

Original photo as published by Mongabay.

She was even named one of 50 Badass Women by Instyle Magazine along with the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madeleine Albright, and former Mongabay Newscast guests Jane Goodall and Margaret Atwood.

As celebrated as her nature and wildlife photography is, however, Vitale started off as a war zone photographer.

She came to realize that humanity’s strained relationship with the natural world was behind each of the human conflicts she covered, however, and then, when she first met Sudan in 2009, she was moved to focus on nature photography.

On today’s episode, Vitale tells us about how meeting Sudan changed her life and discusses a few more of the stories she’s documented throughout her highly decorated career, including China’s efforts to rehab its panda population and the wildlife sanctuary in Kenya that rescues orphaned elephants and helps them return to the wild.

See link for photos & 42-minute audio of article.

Artist brings white rhino back from the dead, digitally

By Education No Comments
Nick Glass, CNN | November 27, 2019

Read the original story here

His name was Sudan. And poignantly, he was the last of his kind, the last male northern white rhino. His final years were spent on a nature reserve in Kenya. Old and infirm, he was put to sleep in March, 2018. His death, at 45, made news headlines around the world.

But now, almost miraculously, Sudan is back and roaming again digitally. He’s currently a star life-size exhibit at London’s Royal Academy. The show is called “Eco-Visionaries” and is about how artists, designers, architects are responding to the climate emergency.

London artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg first heard about Sudan’s fate on Twitter and was moved to resurrect him.

Original photo as published by CNN. (Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg)

Ginsberg’s six minute video installation is called “The Substitute” (2019). Sudan was re-created from zoo archive footage and computer models supplied by a London visual effects company, The Mill, while the way he moves is based on research by artificial intelligence company DeepMind.

You simply sit on a bench and watch Sudan materialize before you – as Ginsberg puts it, “basically a rhino in a box.” You hear his snorts. You sense his bulk, his weight. And for a subliminal moment, he looks directly back at you and catches your eye.

Ginsberg says that she gets “incredibly emotional” seeing him. She’s both “terribly pleased but infinitely sad” to have created “his ghost.” Her aim was to make us think about our place in the natural world.

“Why can’t we look after what we have? These stories are so urgent. We need to change our behavior. And it’s up to us to tell governments.” She says quietly, twice: “We’re not doing well.”

Inescapably, museums and galleries seem increasingly compelled to show work that addresses the climate emergency. How could they not? “The Substitute” is also currently on display in New York and in the Netherlands, while “Eco-Visionaries” has been shown — in different permutations since 2018 — in Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and now England.

Lithium lakes

Here and there, the Royal Academy show is forgivably guilty of being a little didactic.”A Film, Reclaimed” by Brazilian artist Ana Vaz and French filmmaker Tristan Bara uses a montage of old movies to literally spell out its bleak message: “Our economic system is at war with the planet. The absence of future has already begun.”

London artist Kate Davies acknowledges that the climate change narrative “can be very black and white,” but the reality is “much more complicated, more confusing.” Her contribution to “Eco-Visionaries” — as part of the Unknown Fields collective — is an astonishing short film about the vast salt lakes in Bolivia. The source, she says, of up to 70% of the world’s lithium.

We see it all from a drone, flying over hectares of crystalline salt lake, fractured in almost uniform polygons. We sweep across the lithium mines, great rectangular pools of evaporating salt, in blues and greens and dirt brown.

Davies is especially interested in “the materiality of our every day things,” that our laptops, phones, our electric transport are powered by lithium batteries that originate in this landscape. And this comes with its own mythology.

As she tells it, according to the ancient indigenous story, the biggest volcano was jilted by her lover after giving birth to a child. Her tears, mixed with her breast milk, created the great salt lakes. Hence the title of the film, “The Breast Milk of the Volcano.”

Davies holds up her own mobile phone. “The tears of an ancient volcano made your phone. Inside is mythical magic,” she says.

Jellyfish bloom

The final exhibit in “Eco-Visionaries” requires timed entry. For 15 minutes, in a darkened room, you sit in front of your own reflection and then as the lighting shifts, you realize that the bench is just a few feet from a glowing oval tank, filled with flowing sea water and a dancing bloom of living moon jellyfish. They float and pulsate, like so many silk parachutes. The effect is mesmerizing.

The work is accompanied by a sobering soundtrack — snippets of interviews with marine scientists — and basic questions: “What will life be like in 50 years or less?”

The fact is that jellyfish have thrived on global warming and now proliferate in coastal ecosystems, threatening other species. The piece, by German collective Rimini Protokoll, is called “win><win.” It’s is currently on show in London, Essen, Singapore and Moscow.

The collective’s Helgard Haug says the intention is to “make us reflect in a very playful way.” She hopes that people will be encouraged to talk about the piece afterwards.

Haug is optimistic. She says that she is “surrounded by young energetic people who know what has to be done” about climate change.

“Eco-Visionaries” is at London’s Royal Academy until Feb. 23, 2020.

Watch: Sweet baby rhino ‘protects’ its mother from vets. What’s the sad truth behind its concern?

By News No Comments
Scroll In | November 15, 2019

Watch the video here

In an adorable yet disheartening video, a baby rhino squeals and charges at the vets treating his injured and seemingly unconscious mother. While the baby rhino’s fierce attempts are winning hearts, the mother’s story appears to be a heart-breaking one.

Glimpsed in the video is the area of her head where her horn should be, but appears to have been gouged out (presumably by poachers). Rhinos have been relentlessly poached for their horns, to the point where all five surviving species of rhino are now classified as critically endangered.

Another catalyst to their extinction has been a rapid loss of habitat, while the murky rhino horn trade does not appear to be subsiding. In fact, it has been found that rhinos in the wild who have had their horns removed stand a statistically significant higher chance of surviving.

Screenshot from video published on Scroll In.

Here is a comprehensive list of the five species, and their current endangered population figures. The only three remaining northern white rhino were kept under 24-hour guard in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Of them, the last male, Sudan, died at the age of 45 in 2018, and only two females (his daughter and granddaughter) remain. In May of 2019, Malaysia’s last male Sumatran rhinoceros, named Tam, died at a wildlife reserve, leaving just one surviving member of the subspecies, a female.

The need for artificial reproduction for these species may be the best way forward. Foundations like World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have also been working on rhino conservation by expanding protected areas, improving management, security and policies regarding these areas.

Moreover, if the exploitative horn trade industry continues to thrive, the demand for which is driven by the perceived medicinal value of the rhino horn and the status symbol of owning one, current numbers will never match the fight against poaching.

Below are two videos, one of the last two Northern White Rhinos on earth in August 2019, and one of baby rhinos in sanctuaries during playtime as they learn to charge at each other.

In Pics: When Rohit Sharma met world’s last male Northern White Rhino in 2015

By Conservation No Comments
Sanya Jain, NDTV | October 18, 2019

See link for photos.

Pictures shared by Ol Pejeta Conservancy show that cricketer Rohit Sharma and his wife Ritika met Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, back in 2015. Sudan died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in 2018, leaving only two females of its subspecies alive in the world.

On Thursday, Ol Pejeta Conservancy revealed in an Instagram post that Mumbai Indians cricket team captain Rohit Sharma and wife Ritika Sajdeh had visited the conservancy four years ago to meet Sudan and made a “significant donation” to their rhino conservation programme.

They said that thanks to Rohit’s huge following in India and the world, Sudan’s story reached many, adding that the 32-year-old cricketer is actively associated with animal protection.

Original photo as published by Ndtv.com: Rohit Sharma with Sudan at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in 2015. (Source: Instagram)

“Rohit and his wife Ritika came to Ol Pejeta back in 2015 to meet Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world,” wrote Ol Pejeta Conservancy on Instagram, sharing three pictures from the visit. Two of these pics show Rohit posing with the rhinoceros, while the third shows him and Ritika smiling for the camera.

The pics were re-posted by Ritika Sajdeh on Instagram this morning:

Her post has collected over 50,000 ‘likes’ in a matter of hours. “The best thing on internet today,” wrote one person in the comments section. “Awesome,” said another.

Sudan, the world’s last surviving male white rhino, died on March 19, 2018, at the age of 45. Sudan had previously lived at the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic before being transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in 2009. The conservancy made the decision to euthanise him due to the rapid deterioration in his condition.

Rohit Sharma had shared an Instagram post for Sudan at the time, writing: “Rest in peace Sudan, you deserved so much better.”

In September this year, Rohit also joined World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) India and Animal Planet in an attempt to protect the greater one-horned rhinoceros or the Indian rhino.

“It is our duty as co-inhabitants of this planet to try and protect other species that walk this planet, alongside us. The future is in our hands and we should do whatever we can to ensure that our children are able to enjoy the rich bio-diversity this world has to offer,” Rohit Sharma said.

What I learned documenting the last male northern white rhino’s death

By Conservation, Science and technology No Comments
Ami Vitale, National Geographic
This story appears in the October 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine

Read the original story here

I began my career covering conflicts. Starting at 26, I found myself in places such as Kosovo, Angola, Gaza, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. My reason for going, I told myself, was to document the brutality. I thought the most powerful stories were those driven by violence and destruction. While the importance of shining a light on human conflict shouldn’t be minimized, focusing only on that turned my world into a horror show.

But slowly, as I covered conflict after conflict, it became clear to me that journalists also have an obligation to illuminate the things that unite us as human beings. If we choose to look for what divides us, we will find it. If we choose to look for what brings us together, we will find that too.

Those years in war zones led me to an epiphany: Stories about people and the human condition are also about nature. If you dig deep enough behind virtually every human conflict, you will find an erosion of the bond between humans and the natural world around them.

These truths became personal guideposts when I met Sudan, a northern white rhinoceros and, eventually, the last male of his kind.

I saw Sudan for the first time in 2009 at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czechia (the Czech Republic). I can recall the exact moment. Surrounded by snow in his brick and iron enclosure, Sudan was being crate trained—learning to walk into the giant box that would carry him almost 4,000 miles south to Kenya. He moved slowly, cautiously. He took time to sniff the snow. He was gentle, hulking, otherworldly. I knew I was in the presence of an ancient being, millions of years in the making (fossil records suggest that the lineage is over 50 million years old), whose kind had roamed around much of our world.

On that winter’s day, Sudan was one of only eight northern white rhinos left alive on the planet. A century ago there were hundreds of thousands of rhinos in Africa. By the early 1980s, hunting had reduced their numbers to around 19,000. Rhino horns, like our fingernails, are simply keratin, with no special curative powers, yet they’ve long been valued by people around the world as antidotes for ailments from fever to impotence.

When I met Sudan, the remaining northern white rhinos were all in zoos, safe from poaching but with limited success at breeding. Conservationists had hatched a bold plan to airlift four of the rhinos to Kenya. The rhinos, it was hoped, would be stimulated by their ancestral habitat’s air, water, food, and room to roam. They would breed, and their offspring could be used to repopulate Africa.

When I first heard of this plan, it sounded to me like something out of a children’s story. But I quickly realized that this was a desperate, last-ditch effort to save a species. Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya Wildlife Service, Fauna & Flora International, Back to Africa, and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy worked hard to make the move possible. On a frigid December night the four rhinos left the Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czechia for Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

How did we arrive at the point where such desperate measures were necessary? It’s astonishing that a demand for rhino horn based on little more than superstition has caused the wholesale slaughter of a species. But it’s encouraging that a disparate group of people came together in an attempt to save something unique and precious, something that once lost would be gone forever.

Meeting Sudan in Czechia changed the trajectory of my life. Today my work doesn’t focus only on the human condition. Rather, I tell stories about nature, and in so doing, I tell stories about our home, our future, and the interdependence of all life.

Nine years after the airlift, I received a call to hurry to Kenya. At 45, Sudan was elderly for his species. He had lived a long life, but now he was dying. In his last years he experienced again his native grasslands, although always in the company of armed guards to keep him safe from poachers. And he had found stardom—he’d been affectionately dubbed the “most eligible bachelor in the world.”

Sudan’s death was not unexpected, yet it resonated with so many. When I arrived, he was surrounded by the people who had loved him and protected him. Joseph Wachira, the man pictured with Sudan on the previous page and one of his dedicated keepers, went to give him one more rub behind his ear. Sudan leaned his heavy head into Wachira’s. I took a photo of two old friends together for the last time.

Those final moments were quiet—the rain falling, a single goaway bird scolding, and the muffled sorrow of Sudan’s caretakers. These keepers spend more time protecting the northern white rhinos than they do with their own children. Watching a creature die—one who is the last of its kind—is something I hope never to experience again. It felt like watching our own demise.

The northern white rhinos may not survive human greed, yet there is a tiny sliver of hope. Today only two females are left in the world, but plans are in place to try in vitro fertilization to breed them.

This is not just a story to me. We are witnessing extinction right now, on our watch. Poaching is not slowing down. If the current trajectory of killing continues, it’s entirely possible that all species of rhinos will be functionally extinct within our lifetimes. Removal of a keystone species has a huge effect on the ecosystem and on all of us. These giants are part of a complex world created over millions of years, and their survival is intertwined with our own. Without rhinos and elephants and other wildlife, we suffer a loss of imagination, a loss of wonder, a loss of beautiful possibilities. When we see ourselves as part of nature, we understand that saving nature is really about saving ourselves.

Sudan taught me that.

Documentary about last male northern White Rhino to screen in London

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Maria Chiorando, Plant Based News | August 21, 2019

Read the original story here

A documentary depicting the last days of the last male Northern White Rhino will screen in London next month.

The Last Male on Earth, about the rhino called Sudan, will be shown at the Open City Documentary Festival at Curzon Soho on September 7.

Sudan spent his days in protective custody under a constant watch of armed guards and loving carers. Much of the species was killed by hunting in earlier times – followed by illegal poaching in recent years.

Original photo from Plantbasednews.org: The film will screen in London next month.

Sudan

The animal, who lived in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, died last year at the age of 45. He was euthanized as he was suffering too much pain from a degenerative disease.

Staff at the facility described him as a ‘gentle giant’, with a representative, Elodie Sampere, saying: “He was a gentle giant, his personality was just amazing and given his size, a lot of people were afraid of him. But there was nothing mean about him.”

There are only two females left – Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter. Before Sudan was put down, ‘genetic material’ was collected from him, with conservationists hoping it can be used for breeding.

Find out more about the film here.