Sudan, the northern white rhino, was the last male of this species to survive. Known as “the gentle giant”, he arrived on December 20, 2009, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya, along with three other northern white rhinos. Today his legacy depends on his daughter, his granddaughter and science.
Sudan died in 2018 at age 45 (the equivalent of 90 human years) and became a symbol of ongoing rhino conservation efforts and a stark reminder of the danger of extinction that so many species face today.
It was born in 1973 in Shambe, in what is now the African country of South Sudan, and is believed to be the last northern white rhino to be born in the wild. Three years later, he was taken to the Dvur Králové Zoo, in then Czechoslovakia, where he stood 6 feet tall and weighed 5,000 pounds (about the same as a midsize car weighs). There he also had two daughters.
On December 20, 2009, after the northern white rhino was declared endangered in the wild, four rhinos – including Sudan, his daughter Najin, and his granddaughter Fatu – were transferred back to Africa to their native habitat. Eleven years after that fact, Google decided to remember this rhino with a doodle.
At the time, conservationists believed that the natural environment of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy would encourage reproduction among rhinos, but after several years, veterinarians concluded that natural reproduction is probably not possible.
However, there is still hope. Scientists are working to develop in vitro fertilization techniques to save this subspecies from extinction. For now, Sudan’s legacy rests in the hands of Najin and Fatu – the last two northern white rhinos in the world.