back to article Horn star Sudan, last male northern white rhino, dies aged 45

Sudan, aka "The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World” as per hook-up app Tinder, the last male northern white rhino, shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday, aged 45. The sombre news was announced by the snub-nosed giant's home, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Laikipia County, in the foothills of Mount Kenya, in a tweet earlier …

  1. LewisRage

    "Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we're now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day"

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Extinction

      I recently read the rather excellent "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Harari. He says that you can chart primitive mankind's progress around the world by looking at the time that megafauna in that location began to go extinct. Once sapiens moved to a new area, the large easily-hunted megafauna would be hunted at a faster rate than they could reproduce, and be extinct within the course of just a few generations.

      Or, put another way, mankind is generally a bit of a s**t.

      1. Unep Eurobats
        Boffin

        Re: Extinction

        +1 for Sapiens - a great read.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      2. E_Nigma

        Re: Extinction

        Arguably, the process that involved the primitive man was a natural one. Imagine lions moving into a new territory and finding a nice, juicy species that had no similar natural enemies before. Sucks to be that species, but that's how nature works: when conditions change and you cant adapt, you go extinct and make room for others. The problem that wildlife has with the modern man is a different one: we destroy natural habitats and hunt down animals for trophies (as was the case with the northern white rhino).

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Angel

          Re: Extinction

          "we destroy natural habitats and hunt down animals for trophies"

          not so much any more. but that is the way of nature, isn't it? the apex predator causes extinction.

          So we go against our own nature and act a bit more responsibly, instead. You know, like putting out forest fires, rescuing wildlife from natural [or other kinds of] disasters, and saving endangered species. That kind of thing. Only humans do THAT.

          1. Citizens untied

            Re: Extinction

            Seriously?

    2. Michael Habel Silver badge

      If we have never obseved them by this point... Will they be missed?

      1. Citizens untied

        I realize you may be trolling. But fuck you.

  2. ratfox Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Rhino horns are so valuable that people steal them from museums. All that for a substance which you can get from biting your nails.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      All that for a substance which you can get from biting your nails.

      Tell this one to the Chinese.

      1. Dave 13

        Well, they'll all be impotent soon enough, won't they? Poachers are steadily dwindling the rhino population as I type.

      2. Axman

        Tell this one to the Chinese.

        I do. I save up my toenail clippings and send them to the Chinese embassy every year. They never thank me...

    2. S4qFBxkFFg

      The obvious answer is to find some way of poisoning the horn in a way that doesn't harm the rhino, but makes the end product fatal to consume (an alternative acceptable outcome is that it makes the receipient's genitals shrivel up, drop off, or do something else similarly amusing).

      Maybe it would be worth seeing if Mr. Putin could be persuaded to take an interest in megafauna conservation?

      (After all, he seems to consider being viewed as an animal lover to be good propaganda.)

      1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        The obvious answer is to find some way of poisoning the horn in a way that doesn't harm the rhino,

        Some wildlife reserves actually cut the horns from the rhinos who seem to be able to copy OK without them. Without the horn in situ, there is no reason for a poacher to point his gun at the beast.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Unhappy

          "Some wildlife reserves actually cut the horns from the rhinos who seem to be able to copy OK without them"

          This has proven to be ineffective in many places (as it is the same for elephants) as the poachers shoot them once they track them down.

          Killing all the ones without the horns makes it easier to track those with the horns / tusks.

        2. Screepy

          Sadly, that doesn't work. Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa experimented with this in the late 90's and early 00's. Rhinos were sedated and had their horns removed. However, poachers still killed them because they'd spend a day or so tracking the rhino, only to find one without a horn. So they machine gun it anyway so that they didn't waste time tracking a horn-less rhino again by accident.

        3. tip pc Bronze badge

          some countries have huge stockpiles of horn hidden in warehouses. All it does is push the price of fresh horn up and serves as a huge incentive for poachers.

          They should sell the horn on the market to drop its price and provide a disincentive for poachers and encourage rhino horn farming so people actively want these animals to live. Maybe some poachers may turn to farming?

          The Chinese government has huge influence in the so called developing world as they are financing a lot of their infrastructure projects and providing people with jobs. sitting in the west and moaning isn't going to solve their problems.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Poisoning

        the horn will not stop poachers or people buying it!

        "Is this horn poisoned"?

        "No, of course not, Meester".

        "Ok, I'll buy it".

        Horn is exchanged for cash. Do you think the poacher will give a flying fuck whether his one time customer is poisoned?

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Poisoning

          "Do you think the poacher will give a flying fuck whether his one time customer is poisoned?"

          Since these business dealings like any good drug deal rely on repeat business and word of mouth that the product is good. So yes, they will give a flying fuck...

          1. lglethal Silver badge
            Go

            Re: Poisoning

            By the way, I unfortunately dont see poisoning the ivory or the like having an effect. The money available to facilitate crime, in this case removing the effects of the poison from the ivory, is always higher than that involved in attempting to police it or prevent it.

            I think a simpler solution would be possible - simply anyone caught poaching or dealing in ivory gets castrated (sharpness of knife can be variable). That should reduce the numbers willing to do the poaching in the first place, and those further down the line will no longer be in need of the aphrodisiac after the operation. Should act as a deterrent...

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: Poisoning

              And if they find out the sellers are already eunuchs? Or women? Most of these people don't get the horn for themselves, after all.

            2. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

              Re: Poisoning

              That would just raise the price, leading to some people taking the higher risk to get the higher reward *.

              It would likely see other side effects such as poachers no longer being individuals with rifles, but groups with machine guns.

              * Yes, the free market does work, who knew?

              1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                Re: Poisoning

                "It would likely see other side effects such as poachers no longer being individuals with rifles, but groups with machine guns."

                It's already at that point, and we're talking big stuff like BARs; they're capable of shooting at helicopters now. They even put prices on the heads of the rangers. The amount of money in the trade, they could wipe out every animal in central Africa and they wouldn't bat an eyelid.

            3. SkippyBing Silver badge

              Re: Poisoning

              'I think a simpler solution would be possible - simply anyone caught poaching or dealing in ivory gets castrated'

              I'm sure I read somewhere that the Kenyans were taking a slightly more hard line stance than that, i.e. they weren't that worried about the poachers being dead.

          2. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Poisoning

            "Since these business dealings like any good drug deal rely on repeat business and word of mouth that the product is good."

            Not necessarily if the demand is not triggered by them (and it doesn't; it goes to fertility and involves nonphysical qualities, so they're picky about where the keratin comes from; after all, can science explain acupuncture?). So if there are enough potential clients, the sellers may not care about the customers. One dies, another will replace him.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Poisoning

            Since these business dealings like any good drug

            They use the same people and the same transport channels. So supplying damaged goods is one of the last mistakes a poacher can make.

            As far as poisoning it... That is actually not that difficult - it is keratin mostly so sticking some "interesting stuff" into it which does not harm the animal is theoretically possible. Provided that the stuff does not leak until the horn is processed... There is quite a wide choice of options there.

            Good "civilian application" for some solid phospororganic compounds... No, I am not joking - one pellet with that which is properly sealed so it does not leak until the horn goes into the cutter/grinder should do the job. It will deal with the whole supply chain in one go.

      3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Maybe it would be worth seeing if Mr. Putin could be persuaded to take an interest in megafauna conservation?

        Megafauna not so much as it has been extinct in Siberia for millenia, but conservation - definitely: http://programmes.putin.kremlin.ru/tiger/

        After all, he seems to consider being viewed as an animal lover to be good propaganda.

        Indeed. Though on the balance of things we tend to provide him with better propaganda than anything he does.

        I had a conversation with an elderly (and very pro-Putin) Russian lady after their elections. Her comment was: "Are all politicians in Britain retarded? He was going to win anyway, but why the hell did you give him 5-7% extra. Does your lot have even the faintest idea of how an unsupported accusation with a refusal to provide evidence will work on the typical "victim complex" Russian psyche? Do they actually employ someone who knows what are they doing?" I could only sigh and tell her that she is observing the effect of a red Oxford brick stuffed up an arse. I could not really add up anything up to it - she was bloody right. 100%.

      4. John H Woods Silver badge

        "The obvious answer is to find some way of poisoning the horn in a way that doesn't harm the rhino, but makes the end product fatal to consume"

        Low level radioactivity would do it --- relatively harmless for the individual, dangerous for those who handle (and especially process) lots of horn

      5. jmch Silver badge

        The only answer is to eliminate demand. Literally. Capital punishment for anyone not only trafficking but also buying, in any quantity. Draconian I know.

        Now, if only the government of the main source of demand were a highly controlling one, often keen to make a statement and not too scrupulous about human rights...

      6. Clarecats
        Unhappy

        Poisoning the horns... or 3-D printing them.

        Over a year ago, rhino horns started turning bright pink. They had been injected with ectoparasiticides; cattle wormer medicine, enough to make a consumer of horn quite ill. Sadly the bright pink proved to be on digitally altered pics only, but the horn is pink inside, which may or may not be helpful.

        https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/rhinos-elephants-getting-pink-horns-prevent-poaching/

        As mentioned even this won't stop the poachers from killling the rhino.

        Another idea has been 3-D printing rhino horn to flood the market with a counterfeit substitute, made from keratin. However, this would just cover up the illegal trade without deterring poachers.

        https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/3d-printed-rhino-horn-developed/

        A French zoo last year had the shameful task of reporting that one of their Southern White Rhinos had been killed overnight and his horn stolen.

        https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/07/rhino-shot-dead-by-poachers-at-french-zoo

    3. Bill Gray

      "...All that for a substance which you can get from biting your nails."

      Hmmm... I wonder if synthetic rhino horn could be made from human fingernails, at a price low enough to compete with poachers? I suspect there would be no end of people willing to contribute their trimmings.

      Some lying to the horn dealers might be required ("oh, yes, this came from a for-real, genuine rhino!"), but I'd say it would be in a good cause.

  3. Jess

    An alternative product.

    I have heard that the testes of a man who has killed a rhino, have exactly the same medicinal properties.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Pint

    We gents should be so lucky!

    Only a bucket of semen remains...

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: We gents should be so lucky!

      I hope to one day read that sentence in my local newspaper's obituary page.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: We gents should be so lucky!

        "I hope to one day read that sentence in my local newspaper's obituary page."

        If you start collecting now, it might still be possible...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We gents should be so lucky!

      Only a bucket of semen remains...

      Coming and going?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We gents should be so lucky!

      Yeah - once it's aged to "vintage", it will be worth an absolute fortune!

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We gents should be so lucky!

      Wonder how long it took him to fill that?

    5. Def Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: We gents should be so lucky!

      If you were able to produce semen by the bucket load, I think your more immediate concern would be finding trousers that fit.

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        Re: We gents should be so lucky!

        Or use a wheelbarrow. Like Buster Gonad.

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Sad news.

    Schuster's* rhino horn ointment** should be a real hit then

    *as seen in "Oh shucks, it's UNTAG"

    **rubbed on the member***

    ***contains copious amounts of concentrated chilli oils

  6. Michael Habel Silver badge
    Joke

    #whitegenocide.... /jokealert

  7. stu 4

    the Chinese are the real arseholes

    poachers are scum. but there will always be scum feeding demand.... it's the millions of arsehols demanding this 'traditional'/quakery medicine that are the real pond life.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

      I've not done any independent research, but according to "Last chance to see" (brilliant book; read it) it is a myth that the Chinese use rhino horn as an aphrodisiac. Yemeni dagger handles were mentioned as a real market for rhino horn. However, that book was from around 1990. A quick google suggests the Vietnamese have been creating demand recently. These fashions can change rather quickly. The Chinese government has been doing the Right Thing recently in the case of ivory. (Thanks, China.)

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

      That's a broad brush you're using there. They aren't arseholes, they're ignorant. The problem is educating them is laborious, time consuming, and likely full of pitfalls.

      The easiest solution may be to farm rhinos for their horn, it is the same as fingernails and hair after all, and supplement the supply with artificial horn. This would reduce the price and hopefully make poaching unprofitable. It was only ten years ago when trade in rhino horn was legal and in South Africa there were only ~1% as many rhinos poached then as there are today.

      As far as the 'traditional'/quackery medicine crack goes, I'll remind you that it wasn't so many years ago that your ancestors were sucking on willow bark as an analgesic. TCM needs scientific study to see whether there are useful compounds in some of the concoctions rather than just dismissing it as quackery, which isn't to say all of it is worth studying. Specifically rhino horn is already well understood to have no actual medicinal benefit.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

        The Chinese quacks will simply insist on fully-traced wild-grown rhino horn and will turn down any substitutes as not potent enough. And they won't accept scientific explanations for anything because they practice things that work yet defy science (like acupuncture).

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

          things that work yet defy science

          I thought science just couldn't explain.

          Defying sounds like science saying it's not possible and it working anyway.

          Science might be able to explain 60-80% of the universe, but it's not a totally flawless world view - how could it be, humans invented and practice it.

        2. Adam 52 Silver badge

          Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

          "things that work ... (like acupuncture)."

          Except that acupuncture doesn't work either. Not in large scale controlled tests. Its only benefit is that it's a cheap placebo.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: the Chinese are the real arseholes

            "Except that acupuncture doesn't work either. Not in large scale controlled tests. Its only benefit is that it's a cheap placebo."

            They'll just say you're doing it wrong, and that there's no way to do it right in a controlled manner.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rest in peace Sudan

    Let's hope the conservation program turns back the tide of full extinction and in time, these wonderful creatures will grace the planet with their presence once again.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With only three of the subspecies - the programme looks likely to hit inbreeding problems later owing to lack of genetic diversity. The are not prolific breeders - so not enough progeny to really filter by culling.

    IIRC Hawaiian Geese were down to a very small gene pool where the survivors were all effectively siblings.

  10. Dave 32
    Unhappy

    Genetic Diversity

    With only 1.5 breeding pairs left, the genetic diversity is exceptionally low. Thus, even if they are successfully able to breed the two remaining females, the off-spring will be extremely close genetically. That doesn't bode well for the future (e.g., "inbreeding"). :-(

    Dave

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Genetic Diversity

      But then, how did WE get started?

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Genetic Diversity

        Everyone knows it was aliens.

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Genetic Diversity

        Isn't it obvious... The Apple was spiked, and Eve thought everybody at the party was Adam...!

      3. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: Genetic Diversity

        But then, how did WE get started?

        I really hope that was meant to be witty. Trouble is, I've seen too much bollocks spouted by the likes of Ray Comfort and Ken Ham, so I know that there are a lot of people who would take that as a valid question ridiculing evolution.

        Yes, Ray Comfort (aka "banana man") really did try to ridicule evolution by claiming that the first dog to evolve wouldn't have had a mate, therefore evolution couldn't happen. He's known as "banana man" after he claimed the banana was designed by Gawd to perfectly fir the human mouth/hand etc. Then had the piss taken by people who informed him that the edible banana was a human-produced hybrid of two inedible pear-shaped fruit with big, hard, inedible seeds in them.

        Anyway, there never was a first dog. There was a population of wolves that, as centuries passed, all became less wolf-like and more dog-like until there was a population of dogs.

        We didn't start from a population consisting of two humans that incestuously inbred until we reached the population today, despite what the Holy Babble claims. Yes, we did go through a couple of population bottlenecks along the way, but none of them were that small.

        Sorry, you triggered the anti-creationist in me.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Genetic Diversity

          "Sorry, you triggered the anti-creationist in me."

          Apparently just about everyone in Israel at the time of Jesus Christ could have claimed the apparent distinction of being of the line of David. In relatively small communities it doesn't take many generations for the gene pool to be thoroughly mixed.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Genetic Diversity

        "But then, how did WE get started?"

        IANAGeneticBiologist

        If an inbreeding population can produce enough offspring then, in the wild, nature will cull those that are unsuitable or not viable. That will leave a few that are apparently suited. If enough survive then random DNA mutations will gradually increase the size of the gene pool - with nature doing the culling again.

        All humans alive today apparently have a single "Eve" ancestor for their cells' mitochondria component. There has been a lot of genetic mutation in the various lines in the 100-170 thousand years since then.

        The cells that produce a sperm or an egg each split their 23 pairs of chromosomes into two random sets. Therefore each sperm/egg has 23 of the original 46 chromosomes - theoretically at least 2^23 possible combinations can result. There are then other mechanisms in play that can multiply the variants.

        At fertilisation the sperm's 23 chromosomes are combined with the egg's 23 to give the new set of 23 pairs of chromosomes.

        The problems of inbreeding depend on how life threatening particular gene variants are.

        The worst case is where a gene variant is "dominant" and will always produce its effect. That can be very harmful eg haemophilia which is only inherited by sons from the mother on a 50:50 chance.

        A gene that is "recessive" needs to be inherited from both parents before it has any major effect - although a single copy may confer other properties eg Cystic Fibrosis or Sickle Cell Anaemia.

        Over many generations each line of DNA will get random mutations. These may be harmful, beneficial, or a combination of effects.

        Inheriting two copies of a gene for Sickle Cell Anaemia is pretty deadly - however inheriting only one copy (a "carrier") gives immunity to malaria. Similarly Cystic Fibrosis carriers have relative immunity to typhoid.

        1. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Genetic Diversity

          All humans alive today apparently have a single "Eve" ancestor for their cells' mitochondria component.

          mtDNA is proof, if inbreeding is not enough, that the Eve saga in the believer's digest is a myth. There are populations in Africa with incredibly varied mtDNA ... living less than 100 miles apart. While research has tried to finger mtDNA Eve and Y chromosome Adam, two different genetic lineages are unlikely to have common ancestors who lived in the same population at the same time.simply because of the random nature of genealogy.

  11. earl grey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    a sad story

    Now if they can convince them to stop murdering off the pangolins.

  12. Paul Herber
    Pint

    Contemporaneous

    6 syllables - not bad for nearly beer o'clock.

  13. RonWheeler

    Too many people

    on the planet. We kill everything else by our sheer numbers

  14. short

    Finally, a use for homepathy?

    Rhino horn: much more potent when diluted massively.

    Get to it, advertising weasels, justify your existence.

  15. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Extinction..

    Sadly, for these critters and the multitude of critters that have gone extinct, the general population didn't care and nor (except for a relatively few) will most people care IF they're even aware.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is Rhino horn valuable enough to make breeding Rhinos profitable?

    How many years does a Rhino take to grow to a size where it's horn is most profitable?

    Once you "harvest" the horn, can the Rhino be released into the wild?

    Aren't the consumers of Rhino horn concerned about the dwindling supply?

    Isn't there an incentive to selectively breed Rhinos to grow bigger horns faster?

    Isn't there also an incentive to hike the price of Rhino horn by ANY means necessary?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Go

      No.

      Lots. Too many for profit.

      No. Poachers kill them anyway.

      No. They are dicks.

      No.

      No. It's already a black market economy product. No regulation is particularly possible.

  17. joed

    It's really surprising that nation that developed one of oldest/greatest civilizations can be so backwards in so many ways. Seems that the great leap was not enough to overcome even greater superstition. And then came new money (rarely in line with modesty and good taste).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Every human born is effectively a blank sheet. Influences in a society can mould a single generation to a new way of behaving.

      Humans are usually cooperative conformists by nature. They are also inherently tribal, hierarchical, and superstitious - with a tendency to violence in protection/pursuit of their lifestyle. Curiosity also plays a part - though it is often undermined by wishful thinking and self-delusion.

      William Golding's "Lord of the Flies" is a good allegory.

  18. ravenviz Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Massive arseholes

    Is a massive understatement.

  19. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Real demonstration of masculinity

    I'm talking about the poor guy who wanked off the Rhino every day.

    Never mind seeing one in your rifle sights.

  20. Pat Att

    My solution

    Shoot the poachers on sight. It's the only way to be sure.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: My solution

      Many rangers already operate on those protocols. Problem is, the poachers counter by operating on "Let God Sort 'Em Out" protocols: killing and stripping all that get in their way. Thus they usually come armed to the teeth and ready for a war. Rangers have prices on their own heads, and even helicopters aren't safe.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Outgrowing Evolution?

    Non humans adapt to changes in the environment: Humans adapt the environment to suit their needs. Not sure where we go from here!

  22. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Pint

    Not just the megafauna being attacked...

    ...many African and Indian game keepers are being shot by poachers. For a while there it was something like one per week.

    Game wardens trying to defend endangered animals put it all on the line; must be hard to sneak and peek in the bush with their big brass pairs clanking.

    A pint, gentlemen.

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