Northern White Rhinoceros – Functionally Extinct 2018

It is estimated that 8,000 rhinoceros have been killed by humans in the last 10 years alone. There are 21,000 rhinoceros left in the world today. The evolutionary history of rhinoceros goes back 50 million years. The Northern White Rhinoceros is a subspecies of the White Rhinoceros that is said to be descended from Ceratotherium praecox that lived around seven million years ago.

Image of two northern white rhinoceros

The white rhinoceros is the most common of the world’s five remaining rhinoceros species. It has borne the brunt of rhinoceros losses during the global acceleration in illegal hunting, which began in 2008 because of increasing demand for horn products in southeast and east Asia.

Many tens of thousands of northern white rhinoceros formerly ranged over parts of North-Western Uganda, southern South Sudan, the eastern part of Central African Republic, and North-Western Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their range possibly extended as far west as Lake Chad, into Chad and Cameroon.

Poachers reduced their population from 500 to 15 in the 1970s and 1980s. From the early 1990s through mid-2003, the population recovered to more than 32 animals. Since mid-2003, poaching has intensified and further reduced the wild population.

The Northern White Rhinoceros is a grazer in grasslands and Savanna woodlands. As of March 19, 2018, there were only two known rhinos of this subspecies left, both of which are female. This makes the subspecies functionally extinct. The two female rhinos belong to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic but live in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and are protected round-the-clock by armed guards.

The two female northern white rhinos left are:

  • Najin, a female, was born in captivity in 1989. She is the mother of Fatu. Her mother was Nasima and her father was Sudan.
  • Fatu, also a female, was born in captivity in 2000. Her mother is Najin and her father was Saut.

They both belong to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, but live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Africa. They arrived at the conservancy on December 20, 2009, along with two male northern white rhinos from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Suni and Sudan. However, Suni, a male born at Dvůr Králové Zoo in 1980, died from natural causes in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in 2014. Sudan, caught from the wild in 1975, died on March 19, 2018.

Rhinoceros poaching is still at crisis levels, according to the South African government, which released statistics on rhino poaching and rhino horn smuggling. Some 1,028 of all rhino species were illegally killed in 2017, 26 fewer than in 2016 but far above the 13 killed in 2007.


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