Fact-Check: Have White Rhinos gone extinct…? No, here’s the fact…

International Misleading

Deforestation is a sensitive issue, not just in Sri Lanka but across the world as it destroys not only trees but also natural habitat of many species. Some of these species are endangered in some cases. 

Recently, some viral posts fueled discussion about deforestation on social media. These posts claimed that the majestic White Rhinoceros have gone extinct. However, when we did a fact check on these claims, we found that the White Rhinos are not extinct. Let’s check out how we got to this conclusion by following our research methodology given in details below. But first, let us understand the claim made by the above mentioned viral posts.

Social Media Claim

Alongside an image showing a white rhino lying on the ground, a number of posts were shared on social media during the first week of June. The description given below was shared by many users with the photo.

 “The end of an era

The northern white rhino which survived 55 million years and saw ice ages, earthquakes, meteor strikes, and was testament to innumerable historical changes on the planet could not survive humans.

The great beast is now functionally extinct.

We as a species can achieve the greatest things but also be a truly evil pest to nature…”

Facebook | Achieved 

Similar posts were shared in Sri Lanka as well. However these claimed that the world’s last White Rhinoceros had died on 19th March 2018 and the world would not be able to witness another white rhinoceros on Earth, and did not specify about Northern White Rhinoceros.

Facebook | Archived

Fact Check 

Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka started investigating this claim by running Google Reverse Image search of the first post and reviewing previous reports by reliable media outlets.

The death of the world’s last male northern white rhinoceros was reported by The Guardian more than three years ago. The U.K.-based media organization reported that the male rhinoceros whose name is Sudan, 45 years old, was euthanized on March 19, 2018 at Ol Pejeta Conservancy – a wildlife sanctuary in Northern Kenya.

It was put down after the pain from illness, leaving behind only two reported female northern white rhinoceroses in the world, Najin and her daughter Fatu – a daughter and a granddaughter of Sudan, according to the Guardian’s report.

The Guardian | Archived Link

The world’s last male northern white rhinoceros was named “Sudan” after his home country Sudan – where he was born in 1973. Here is an image published on Getty Images of the male northern white rhinoceros Sudan from 2015

However the image of the rhino mentioned in the first social media claims is not Sudan, it is Najin (daughter of Sudan) who was resting while being comforted by a zoo keeper, according to a Xinhua’s report published in May 2019 with the photo dates back to March 30, 2018.

Xinhua | Archived Link

With the loss of Sudan in 2018, the northern white rhinoceros species was deemed functionally extinct. IUCN has named the species to be possibly extinct in the wild and has categorized as critically endangered as seen in this article titled “Conservation efforts bring cautious hope for African rhinos – IUCN Red List”

ICUN Listing for Northern White Rhino is seen below, which also lists only 02 individuals.

IUCN | Archived

However, scientists still hope to revive the species by creating artificial reproductive methods using the sperm left by Sudan on Najin & Fatu. 

In its press release on April 29, 2021, Ol Pejeta Conservancy – a wildlife sanctuary operated by Fauna and Flora International – expressed a further development as scientists and conservationists created four embryos in hope to rescue the species from extinction.

The organization said the rescue mission was to harvest immature egg cells from the two females and artificially inseminate these using frozen sperm from deceased males in order to create viable northern white rhino embryos since 2019.

The latest development was called “the most successful of series of procedures” toward the preventing extinction of the northern white rhino.

Ol Pejeta’s Press Release | Archived Link

However the time is running out for this majestic creatures and below is a video on the latest developments.

Fact crescendo Sri Lanka will monitor developments on this story in coming months and try to update the progress made by the scientists in this regard as well. 

However, White Rhinoceros consists of two subspecies. While the Northern White Rhino is critically endangered with only 2 remaining females in captivity as shown above, the Southern White Rhinoceros more often called as White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum) comprises of more than ten thousand mature individuals, mainly confined to Africa. ICUN has listed White Rhino as near threatened

Conclusion

Fact Crescendo Sri Lanka found the world’s last male Northern White Rhino, Sudan was euthanized in March 2018 due to his illness. He was indeed the last reported male species of Northern White Rhinoceros, and the species has been deemed functionally extinct ever since.

Sudan’s daughter Najin and grand-daughter Fatu are the only reported remaining Northern White Rhinos currently in captivity. While the time may be running out to revive the Northern White Rhino species from being fully extinct, scientists are hopeful of artificial reproductive procedures (IVF) by inseminating frozen sperm from deceased Sudan on Najin and Fatu.

IUCN has named Northern White Rhinos to be possibly extinct in the wild and has categorized as critically endangered. However, Southern White Rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) comprises of more than ten thousand mature individuals, mainly confined to Africa. ICUN has listed White Rhino as near threatened

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Title:Fact-Check: Have White Rhinos gone extinct…?

Fact Check By: Sahan Perera 

Result: Misleading

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