4 min read

What's Next For The 6 Living Northern White Rhinos

<p>Jan Steiskal</p>

With the death of Suni, the northern white rhino, the last chance for the species lies at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Najin and her daughter Fatu are currently housed with a male southern white rhino in hopes of producing a pregnancy in one of the cows. The northern white rhinos used to range over parts of eastern and central Africa (Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and DRC). In 1960, 2,000 northerns existed. With only three left at Ol Pejeta, two in the U.S., and one in the Czech Republic, how did it come to this? Why has the northern succumbed to poaching so much more quickly than their southern cousins?

Nola enjoying treats at the San Diego Zoo in the U.S. (Photo: SDZ)

They have been poached just like all other species of rhino, but the civil wars in both DRC and Sudan have had a particularly devastating impact on the northern whites. Poaching initially increased during this time of civil unrest in the 1990s.

Despite this, the population managed to hold until 2003. Then there was another upsurge in poaching, sending the population plummeting. While the northerns fell, the southern white rhino grew, benefiting from a conservation strategy, mainly of translocation. Dr. Ian Player and a small group of men headed up efforts to move them out of harm's way, establishing new populations throughout southern Africa. The main population of these rhinos are the majority who are now in Kruger National Park.

Luck? Happenstance? Either way, it stands that one species is on the brink of extinction, while the other remains just steps away.

Northern White Rhinos in Ol Pejeta. (Photo: Ami Vitale)

Ol Pejeta gave the following comment:

"The species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race... We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf."