Alan Murphy
Australia AU
Sep 22, 2015 September 22, 2015

Alan Murphy is a Lonely Planet author and expert on Southern Africa and its wildlife. In 2013 he established Roundtrip Foundation. Check out www.roundtripfoundation.org.au.

Categories: Alan Murphy's Column, Conservation & Sustainability

Alan’s blog this week turns attention to a rhino named Sudan – the last of his kind on the planet. I have written extensively about the slaughter of rhino in South Africa recently. Rhino horn fetches enormous amounts of money in Asia, and this relentlessly drives the poaching industry in Africa. Where there is money involved, there are often men and guns on this continent.

Sudan – the last of his kind
I came across a picture that made me weep recently. It was a photo of a white rhino named Sudan with his guards at a reserve in Kenya. The face of loneliness itself this wrinkled, dehorned beast is the world’s last northern white rhino. Looking at his picture encapsulates sadness. He is the last of his kind. There are two females also in the park, but breeding attempts haven’t worked.

When Sudan dies, so will his species. How did we let this happen? It poses far bigger questions as to our treatment of animals, biodiversity and the health of our planet. How could we let a majestic mammal, such as a rhinoceros, get to the precipice of extinction? This, I will never understand.

Rhino Numbers in the Wild
Other species of rhino don’t fare much better. The one with the healthiest population is the southern white rhino in Africa with a population around 20,000. But they are succumbing to poaching at an ever increasing rate,

Africa’s black rhino is critically endangered with less than 5000 left across Africa. Once found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, but first hunted and then poached to near extinction, conservation efforts have now slowed down its demise, but for how long?

In Indonesia the Javan rhinoceros is not far from extinction either. There are around 35 individuals left in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia. The last Javan rhino in Vietnam was poached 5 years ago.

The Indian rhinoceros or greater one-horned rhino was pushed to extinction in the early 20th century, almost wiped out by British hunters. Rigorous conservation efforts have seen their numbers recover to almost 3000 across the Indian sub-continent. However, the threat of poaching is never far away.

Seeing pics of Sudan wandering morosely around his reserve, his dwindling majesty obvious and heartbreaking, it makes me worry not just for the planet’s wildlife but for the fate of humanity. Is this who we want to be?