Goodbye Sudan, the World’s Last Male Northern White Rhino
This week, I made a heartbreaking journey back to Kenya to say goodbye to Sudan, the world's LAST male northern white rhino alive on the planet. Today, I am launching a print sale with a choice of two images, one of the final moments of Sudan and an image of Fatu, Sudan’s granddaughter and one of the last two surviving female northern white rhino on the savannah. I am donating 100% of the profits to support Ol Pejeta so that they can continue on their mission of protecting and fighting for some of the world's most vulnerable creatures. Sudan lived a long and good life and he was surrounded by love, with the people who committed their lives to protecting him. View and purchase the prints available here.
Sudan’s death could mean the extinction of his species, but if there is meaning in Sudan’s passing, it’s that all hope is not lost. This can be our wake-up call. In a world of more than 7 billion people, we must see ourselves as part of the landscape. Our fate is linked to the fate of animals.
I had the privilege of meeting Sudan nine years ago, and he changed the trajectory of my work. When I heard about a plan to airlift four of the world’s last northern white rhinos from the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic to Kenya, it sounded like a storyline for a Disney film of captive animals returning to the wild dusty plains. In reality, it was a desperate, last-ditch effort to save a species. At the time, there were only eight of these rhinos left, all living in captivity. He looked ancient, part of a species that has lived on this planet for millions of years, yet could not survive mankind.
Sudan and three other rhinos left the Dvůr Králové Zoo on a cold night in December 2009. They were brought to move “free” on the Kenyan savannas at Ol Pejeta. The hope was to breed them. The air, water and food—not to mention room to roam—might stimulate them, experts thought. The offspring could then be used to repopulate Africa. Failing that, they would be cross-bred with southern white rhinos to preserve the genes.
I remember so clearly when Sudan first set foot on the African soil. The skies darkened and torrential rains came moments after we arrived. He put his head in the air to smell the rains and immediately rolled around on the ground. It was his first mud bath since he left the continent, taken from Sudan, the country with which he shares his name. That Sudan was moved to the Dvůr Králové Zoo may have saved his life; the last known wild rhinos were poached on the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2004.
Poaching is not slowing down. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that if the killing continues, these rhinos—along with elephants and a host of lesser known plains animals—will be functionally extinct in our lifetime.
The plight of wildlife and the conflict between poachers and increasingly militarized rangers has received much-needed attention. But very little has been said about the indigenous communities on the front lines of the poaching wars, and the incredible work being done to strengthen them. We often forget that the best protectors of these landscapes are the local communities. Their efforts are ultimately the best immunization against forces that threaten both their wildlife and way of life. My hope is that Sudan’s legacy serves as a catalyst to awaken humanity to this reality.
The print is available for $225 plus shipping. It will be printed by the fine art studio of Paper & Ink at 12×14 inches (30.5×36 cm) on archival paper which is designed to meet museum longevity requirements.
Another way you can help protect and preserve wildlife is by visiting Ol Pejeta or many of the conservancies in Northern Kenya, like those in the Northern Rangelands Trust, and around the world, like the Dvůr Králové Zoo, where tourism dollars go right back into the communities protecting wildlife. Managed and properly controlled, tourism can be used as an effective tool to protect species and raise awareness about the natural world.
Purchase prints here. Thank you and please consider sharing this sale.