By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Last month, Sudan, the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino, died after months of poor health.
He was 45 years old and lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Now, there are only two female northern white rhinos left on Earth, Sudan’s daughter and granddaughter.
Witnessing a major mammal species become extinct before our very eyes is a sobering experience.
And it should be.
The northern white rhino may not be cute and cuddly like the panda, which is the endearing mascot for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), but with only two specimens of this majestic animal left alive on Earth, it is only a matter of time until the subspecies becomes extinct.
The female animals are well past their reproduction age.
So, today, the great northern white rhino, which once numbered in the tens of thousands and roamed loftily across the savannahs of Africa, is a moribund species.
Ironically, it was the white rhino’s horn, which was supposed to be its greatest weapon of self-defense, that led to its demise.
Poachers have for centuries hunted white rhinos for their horns, which are ground up and used in traditional Asian medicine.
Fortunately, the northern white’s southern cousin, which is its closest relative, has, despite a recent surge in poaching, managed to survive and even recover some of its numbers, thanks to a concerted effort by the WWF and the South African government.
Scientists are now desperately trying to implant a harvested and artificially inseminated egg from one of the elderly northern white females into a younger southern white rhino.
But time is running out, and so far, they have had no success in this last-ditch effort to save the northern white rhino.
Even the two remaining northern white rhinos in Kenya are in danger.
They peacefully roam the grassy savannas and woodlands of Ol Pejeta, each accompanied by an entourage of four to six armed Kenyan soldiers who are there to protect them from poachers.
They are not aware that their extinction is imminent.
But we humans are.
And all we can do at this point is to witness the disappearance of the northern white rhino as a consequence of our own irresponsible stewardship of the planet.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.