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article imageExtinction clock running down with death of white Rhino

By Karen Graham     Oct 20, 2014 in Environment
The extinction clock is winding down today for the Northern white rhino, one of the two sub-species of white rhinos. On Saturday, workers at a Kenya game reserve found Suni, one of two male Northern white rhinos, dead in his enclosure.
The death of Suni leaves just six Northern white rhinos left on the planet. His death has hit everyone at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 155 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya very hard. Suni "was probably the last male capable of breeding," according to Dvur Kralove zoo in the Czech Republic, where the rhino was born in 1980.
Although Suni wasn't a target to poachers who succeeded in killing off an entire sub-species in the wild, park staff lamented that his species "now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race."
At one time the Northern white rhino was seen in several countries in East and Central Sub-Saharan Africa. Before 1970-1980, there were as many as 500 of the creatures in the wild. By 2006, according to the World Wildlife Fund, there were only four left in the wild, and they didn't live too long after that.
On Dec. 20, 2009, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy received four of six Northern white rhinos from the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic. The two male and two female rhinos were kept in special paddocks at first to acclimatize them to their new surroundings. There was Suni and Sahara, the two males, and Najin and Fatu, their ladies.
White rhinos are not particularly avid breeders, and when a pair does mate, the pregnancy can last from 16 to 18 months. Suni was bred with Najin twice in 2012, but by January 2014, it was decided that Najin had never been pregnant.
Sperm from males born at Dvur Kralove has been conserved and sent to the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany. Dvur Kralove has just one aged female left. There is a pair of Northern white rhinos living at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, California, but they are too old to reproduce.
The death of Suni at age 34 leaves the park with just two females and the one male, Sahara. Ol Pegata conservationists still have hope. They say they will persevere "in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf."
More about Extinction, White rhino, Kenya game reserve, death of a subspecies, Northern white rhino
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