Saving Sudan: A race to save the last male northern white rhino

Sudan is being kept under 24-hour armed guard at a game reserve in Kenya.

NAIROBI - The world's last male northern white rhino is being kept under 24-hour armed guard at a game reserve in Kenya.

There are only five northern white rhinos left on the planet after being driven to the brink of extinction by poaching and war.

His name is Sudan, named after the country where they found him.

He is 42-years-old, which by rhino standards, is elderly.

Although he has a healthy appetite, he's going a little blind on his left eye and has weak legs.

So trying to mount female rhinos has not been going so well.

Sudan spends his days eating bales of hay spiced with alfalfa, and is served carrots and bananas with his supplements at 4pm.

He usually wanders over to grunt at the female rhinos feeding next door, but to no avail.

Then it's nap time.

Sudan's last friend and rival, Suni, died in December, leaving him as the last male northern white rhino standing.

It's a lonely life for a rhino who was raised in captivity in a Czech Zoo after his capture in what became South Sudan.

Over his years in Eastern Europe, Sudan got a little fat.

Staff at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya's Laikipia district have been trying to help him lose weight.

He needs to be able to mount Najin in order for her to conceive, and she has weak knees.

But Sudan's head caregiver Zacharia Mutai, who's been looking after Sudan since his arrival at the conservancy in 2009, said Sudan is like his child.

"Sudan is my really close friend and I also take him as my baby."

Mutai keeps watch by day and at night armed security take over with their rifles.

Conservationists plan to harvest his sperm along with Najin's eggs, so they can try to fertilise them in vitro and implant them into a surrogate southern white rhino.

But chances of success remain slim.

This is humanity fighting itself through science trying to save a subspecies they're responsible for pushing into extinction.

Northern white rhinos have a life expectancy of 40 to 45 years.

At 42, Sudan is old. This is what extinction looks like.

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