The world’s last male northern white rhinoceros has been put under 24-hour armed guard in a Kenya game conservancy because of fears he could be targeted by poachers.
Sudan and his two female companions at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya are among just five of the rare sub-species of white rhinos left in the world, and the only ones that live in relative freedom since the other two are kept in zoos.
All three have had their horns removed to deter poachers (EPA)
All three are fitted with radio transmitters and have had their horns remove in a bid to deter poachers, who have killed hundreds of rhinos across Africa in recent years because of a demand in Asia for their horns, which are erroneously thought to have healing properties.
“With the rising demand for rhino horn and ivory, we face many poaching attempts and while we manage to counter a large number of these, we often risk our lives in the line of duty,” one of Sudan’s rangers, Simor Irungu, said in an interview with the UK’s World of Animals magazine.
Sudan the last male white rhino
South Africa has borne the brunt of the rhino poaching crisis, with more than 1,000 killed in its game reserves last year. In Kenya, which has a smaller population, a total of 54 rhinos were killed by poachers in the same period – along with many mire elephants killed for their ivory.
Demand for rhinoceros horn – which is made of keratin, also found in hair and nails – has skyrocketed in recent years, largely driven by the market in Asia, where the powdered horn is valued for its purported medicinal properties.
A keeper with one of the rhinos (EPA)
The northern white rhino is the rarest of the species and the death in December of a 44-year-old member of the group named Angalifu has brought it even closer to extinction.
Scientists say there are now very limited chances of any more rhinos being born but any hope rests with Sudan and his two females, who were transferred by their owner, a zoo in the Czech Republic, to Kenya in 2009 in the hope they might one day reproduce.