Mammals World Wildlife

Northern white rhino

Northern white rhino

Scientific name: Ceratotherium Simum Cottoni

Conservation status: Critically endangered (extinct in the wild)

Did you know there are only two northern white rhinos remaining in the world?!

The northern white rhino is one of two subspecies of white rhinos that are considered to be extinct in the wild. The other type of subspecies for the white rhino is the Southern white rhino. While they have features that make them unique, the main difference between the southern and the northern white rhino is their population size.

There are two remaining northern white rhinos in the world – named  Najin (27-years-old) and Fatu (17-years-old). In March 2018, the last remaining male, Sudan, aged-45 passed away due to age-related complications.  Sudan was Najin’s father and Fatu’s grandfather. While Sudan was alive, he lived at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Thanks to this organisation the three remaining northern white rhinos were protected by heavily armed soldiers 24 hours a day.

 

 

What is the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and what do they do?

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a non-profit organisation that protects African wildlife. The Conservancy protects five types of animals: Lions, African elephants, leopards, Cape buffalos and different species of rhinoceros. The three remaining northern white rhinos were relocated from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic to this Kenyan Conservancy. Thanks to many donations, this organisation is able to protect  amazing animals by using a variety of security measures, such as, fences, local communities, highly trained dogs, drones and heavily armed soldiers.

 

 

Where did the northern white rhino originally live?

Northern white rhinos were once found in the savanna and grasslands of numerous countries, mostly the East, south and Central areas of Africa.  In the case of Sudan, he was born (hence the name) in South Sudan 1973. However, between the 1970s and 80s, the rhino population plummeted from 500+ to 15 due to heavy poaching. As a result, the remaining rhinos were relocated to different conversations where they were kept in captivity for their own protection. 

The lifespan of a northern white rhino

It was estimated that the northern white rhino lived up to 40 years in the wild, and up to 45 – 50 years in captivity. However, for many decades it was very rare for this type of rhino to reach adulthood due to poaching. However, in 2010, the youngest norther white rhino (Najin) was able to was able to give birth to the last female rhino – Fatu (Sudan’s granddaughter).

Even though Najin is still considered young, she’s unable to have more offspring due to her weak legs. As for Fatu, even though she is young too – she cannot get pregnant either. She was unfortunately born with a uterine disorder, which prevents an embryo from being implanted.

 

Sudan - the northern white rhino

This is Sudan, the Northern white rhino .

 

When did the Northern white rhinos become sexually mature?

Like most animals, female northern white rhinos become sexually mature by the time they are seven-years-old. As  for male rhinos,  their maturity often varies between 10- 12-years-old.

Gestation period for a norther white rhino

A gestation period for a rhino is  an average of 16 months. Due to their size while they’re in the womb, rhinos commonly only give birth to one baby, which made repopulating very difficult. 

The Northern white rhino diet

All species of rhinos are herbivores that enjoy a variety of twigs, fruits and grass.  However, the two remaining rhinos enjoy eating short grass. Najin and Futa eat mainly during the morning and later afternoon – when the temperature is not too high. Throughout the day, when it becomes too hot, these rhinos try to preserve their energy by napping. 

 

Fatu the Northern white rhino - eating grass

This is Fatu, the youngest remaining Northern white rhino in the world.

 

How much do they weigh and how big can they grow?

On average, a healthy male adult rhino use to weigh 2,300 kg (5070 lbs) and a female adult weigh on average 1800 kg (3,968 lbs). The size of a rhino use to vary, but it’s been recorded that they could grow between three and a half to four metres in length. This critter is known to be the third biggest African mammal, with the elephant and hippopotamus being the first and second largest animals.

Norther white rhino predators and threats

Like most animals when they are young, there’s always something that can threaten their lives, especially in the wild. For the northern white rhinos though, their threat use to be large predators such as hyenas, African wild dogs and crocodiles. However, in recent decades, predators were not the problem. Instead, humans have been their biggest threat.  

Poaching is the number one reason why all northern white rhinos were killed in the wild. Some cultures still believe that rhino horns contain special medicinal properties that can cure a range of diseases. However,  for many years – researchers have identified horns as simply a large nail with absolutely no medical purpose!

Can we save the norther white rhino population?

So far there have been two options that conservationists and scientists have tried to do to help increase the rhino populations. For many years, conservationists have tried to crossbreed one of the female northern white rhinos with a male Southern white rhino, however, each attempt has not been successful.  

On the other hand, scientists from numerous countries across the world have tried to work the with in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). They believe that they can conceive an embryo by using harvested eggs from the two remaining female rhinos and stem cell. Afterwards, the embryo would be carried and given birth by a surrogate mother. 

Unfortunately, this type of project is considered costly and has no government backing. However, thanks to thousands of generous people, the main source of income for this IVF project relies mainly on donations. Each donation increases the possibility to bring back the magnificent northern white rhino.

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