Northern white rhino joins list of ‘most eligible bachelors’

The last surviving male northern white rhino has joined Tinder in search of hook-ups in an attempt to save the species from extinction.

Sudan, the 42-year-old rhino dubbed ‘The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World’ by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where he lives, is the only left hope of reproduction within the species that has only two others left.

Najin and Fatu, Sudan’s female companions in the conservancy in Laikipia County, are unable to breed naturally with him due to a range of issues, including old age.

For now, the trio is kept under 24-hour armed guard as preparations are made to propagate the species.

The conservancy has partnered with Tinder, the world’s leading social app for meeting new people, in a new campaign to raise awareness about Sudan.

That will, possibly, get members whom Sudan tickles their fancy to contribute towards raising some $9 million (Sh928.8 million) required to reintroduce a viable population of northern white rhino back into the universe.

POTENTIAL MATCHES

When Tinder users ‘swipe right’ on Sudan’s profile, they will be directed to a page www.olpejetaconservancy.org/most-eligible-bachelor/ from which they can donate towards this cause.

Tinder finds members’ potential matches and, if you take a liking to them, you swipe right to ‘like’ them. Each day, 26 million matches are made on Tinder with more than 20 billion matches to date.

Sudan has been on Tinder since April 25 and had, as at midday last Tuesday, raised $71,315 (Sh7,349,010).

“We partnered with Ol Pejeta Conservancy to give the most eligible bachelor in the world a chance to meet his match,” said Mr Matt David, head of Communications and Marketing at Tinder. “We are optimistic, given Sudan’s profile will be seen on Tinder in 190 countries and in over 40 languages.”

Sudan has appeared in a string of international documentaries and global news stories, and Tinder took notice.

REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Anyway, the plan is to raise money to develop reproductive technologies for the species, including in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Although Sudan “still admires the ladies” and is willing to mate, his flesh and sperm are too weak to produce offspring. And the ‘ladies’, too, have their own health and reproductive issues.

The rhinos previously lived in a zoo in the Czech Republic but were transferred to Kenya in 2009 in the hope that the climate, natural habitat and dietary conditions would provide more favourable breeding conditions. But those hopes have not been realised.

“Age is one — female rhinos start breeding from age six or seven; Najin is 25 and Fatu is 15. Sudan’s sperm levels are also critically low.

If the IVF procedures are successful, they would allow researchers to “reintroduce a viable population of northern white rhino back into the wild, which is where their true value will be realised,” said Mr Richard Vigne, the conservancy’s CEO, in a release sent to the Nation.

GREATEST LOSS

Widespread poaching has decimated Africa’s rhino population with the northern white rhino suffering the greatest loss. By the 1960s, there were only 2,300 left — that figure dwindled to just 15 in 1984.

Governments have started taking drastic measures to stop this sharp decline.

These include hiring snipers in Kenya to protect the vulnerable rhino population and relocating rhinos in South Africa to Australia to create an “insurance population” that would save them from extinction.

Mr Vigne said the plight of the northern white rhinos is a signal to the impact that humankind has on thousands of other species.

“We are in a race,” said Mr Mathieu Plassard, the regional managing director for Ogilvy Africa. “A race against the extinction of the northern white rhino species.

“We urgently need to raise awareness and funds for Sudan. No one could run this campaign better with us than Tinder. It will offer ‘the most eligible bachelor’ global exposure in such a meaningful way.

POSITIVE IMPACT
“We are honoured and very proud to be part of this campaign that will have a positive impact on our environment.”

The funds raised will go towards ongoing research into Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) by a consortium of institutions. Once perfected, this technology, particularly IVF, is hoped to aid in achieving artificial reproduction in northern white rhinos to gradually build up a viable herd.

“This represents the last option to save the species after all previous breeding attempts proved futile,” said Mr Vigne.

The European Northern White Rhino Working Group, made up of international zoological experts, met in early March to discuss the next steps in bringing the northern white rhino back from the brink of extinction.

The ongoing research in the United States, Germany and Japan aims to establish a herd of 10 northern white rhinos after five years using IVF.

OVUM PICK-UP

For the past two years, experts have been developing a technique known as ovum pick-up (OPU) on southern white rhinos, which involves the collection of eggs from females.

While the first stages of embryonic development have been achieved, scientists now face the challenge of keeping the cells alive long enough to mature and be fertilised so that they develop into embryos suitable for transfer.

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