In 1960, there were over 2,000 Northern White Rhinos on Earth. By 1984, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, poachers had reduced that number to 15. Today, there are just five.
Of those five, Sudan is the only male. To protect him from poachers, he has been placed under 24-hour armed guard in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Armed rangers in Sudan guard the last male northern white rhino on earth. His species survived for 50 million years. pic.twitter.com/mIfpOA75fI
— Julian Dutton (@JulianDutton1) April 11, 2015
That is not the only measure the conservancy rangers have taken. The rhino has also been fitted with radio transmitters and had his horn sawed off. Ol Pejeta’s Elodie Sampere told The Dodo the measure was taken to deter poachers. “If the rhino has no horn,” said Sampere, “he is of no interest to poachers. This is purely to keep him safe.”
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) April 13, 2015
Rhino numbers have been on the decline for decades due to the high price their horns can fetch on the black market. Despite being composed of little more than keratin (the same material that makes up your hair and nails), powdered rhino horn has long been considered a medicinal cure-all in Africa and Asia. Today, one kilogram of the horn can sell for at least $75,000. According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, 1,215 rhinos were killed for it in that country last year.
Poachers are often heavily armed and have opened fire on rangers like Simor Irungu, one of Sudan’s guards in the conservancy.
“With the rising demand for rhino horn and ivory, we face many poaching attempts and while we manage to counter a large number of these, we often risk our lives in the line of duty,” Irungu said in January.
Sudan is the last remaining male of his species. Angalifu, a 44-year-old male White Rhino, died at the San Diego Safari Park earlier this year. Suni, a 34-year-old male also living in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, was found dead in October.