OPERATION SOUTH SUDAN
The unicorn is a mythical creature of beauty and wonder, with many features described in urban legends that resemble a Rhino. Humankind acknowledges that the unicorn is only a creature seen in fairy tales and as such, will never witness one walk on this Earth. Today, it is now the harsh reality that, thanks to our actions, our children’s children are just as likely to see a unicorn as they are a Northern White Rhino.
As of March 2018, with the passing of the last remaining male Northern White Rhino named Sudan, the species was declared functionally extinct, with only two elderly, infertile females remaining. This demonstrated the terrifying reality of the consequences of our actions and our neglect in preventing the demise of a species. If we were to allow this fate on such an iconic animal as the Rhino, what hope remains for other species we share our home with?
Undeservingly, we have been offered a chance to redeem ourselves and right our wrongs by fighting for the existence of the Northern White Rhino. Rumours of the animal’s presence, including droppings and tracks, from South Sudan restores hope for the future of this iconic species.
Despite being declared functionally extinct in 2018, no survey or study of wildlife in South Sudan has occurred for over a decade. Leading to an urgency for a search of any remaining Northern White Rhino in the area.
Saving The Survivors was fortunate enough to assist with the search for remaining Northern White Rhinos in the wild. With our unique knowledge of Rhino conservation, we offer the search the best possible chance of success.
Our unique experience of offering endangered animals a second chance at life made us the best fit to help with the search for any remaining Northern White Rhino in the wild. From performing life-saving surgery on endangered animals on a daily basis, to our extensive experience of darting, tracking, and translocation of animals for their safety: our experiences covers anything that this search might encounter.
There are two subspecies of White Rhino, the Northern and Southern White Rhino. Historically, Northern White Rhinos roamed over parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
- 1907 – The two subspecies of White Rhino were officially identified as genetically different.
- 1960 – Populations of Northern White Rhino predicted to exceed 2,000, greater than their southern relatives.
- 1970 – Total numbers of Northern White Rhino have halved in just one decade, with population declining at an alarming rate.
- 1975 – Precautionary measures are put in place and 5 Rhino are imported from a Czech zoo to attempt to halt the decline.
- 1981 – The Northern White Rhino is declared as critically endangered.
- 1984 – Only 15 Northern White Rhino are reported to exist in the wild. This later rises to 31, but with relentless poaching, any meaningful efforts of conservation are hopeless.
- 2008 – A survey conducted in Garamba concludes the extinction of Northern White Rhino in the wild. Only 6 individuals remain in captivity.
- 2009 – Four Rhinos are transported from the Czech zoo to OI Pejeta in the hope that being back in their natural environment will lead to breeding.
- 2015 – Only three Rhinos remain in Kenya.
- 2018 – The passing of the last male Northern White Rhino occurs in March, leaving only two infertile, old females in existence.
The Northern White Rhino is declared functionally extinct.
The final two Northern White Rhino in existence live out their days under 24 hour armed guard protection in OI Pejeta.
There is no hope of them repopulating their species alone as they are old, infertile and both females. It would seem there is no fighting chance for the continued existence of the species. Against all odds, Saving The Survivors refused to give up hope on the Northern White Rhino, and are prepared to rewrite history, giving this species a happier tale.
South Sudan was once a stronghold for the species, however with decades of civil unrest the species was reported eradicated in the area. In spite of this, unconfirmed rumours and sightings, even including droppings and tracks, coming from the country lead us with a glimmer of hope that some still remain in the vast area of wilderness.
Following an initial visit from Paul Naden and other members of the STS team in 2019, this brought to light evidence which leads us to believe the Northern White Rhino lives on. The signing of a declaration of peace in South Sudan marked the best opportunity to search for any last remaining Northern White Rhino, which was previously impossible due to unsafe conditions.
Along with the STS team, led by Paul Naden, the search operation was supported by dedicated South Sudanese security forces who demonstrated an incredible passion for the wildlife in their country.
The search was conducted in March 2020, with the objective of searching an area of 93,000 square miles in approximately 20 days. March marks the end of the dry season, when vegetation is at its thinnest and wildlife congregate around waterholes. This is the prime time to look for any wildlife as when the wet season arrives in April, so much rain falls that the region becomes a swap, making it impossible to use any vehicles.
The search for the last remaining Northern White Rhino began in March 2020. Within the first week of the search, evidence of the Northern White Rhino was apparent, including local community eyewitnesses and physical Rhino tracks! This led to us undoubtedly believing in the existence of Northern White Rhino within South Sudan!
Unfortunately, after a promising start searching for the last remaining Northern White Rhino, it is with heavy hearts to announce that our search was abruptly cut short due to the onset and development of the Corona virus pandemic. Since the pandemic began, we have been unable to return to South Sudan and continue the search for the Northern White Rhino, leaving a looming question over all of our heads as to the where the remaining Rhino are and if they are still out there somewhere…
Saving The Survivors’ mission still prevails, and we have not given up hope in finding the last Northern White Rhino. We intend to return to South Sudan and find any Northern White Rhino that might still remain in the wild and offer them the best possible safety and stability. However, we cannot do this without your support and generosity!
You can watch more about the search for the last Northern White Rhino on BBC iplayer here
“It is deeply upsetting that we have allowed another species to slip into extinction, but deeply promising that we might have the opportunity to rectify this. Saving The Survivors will continue to do our best by endangered animals by offering our help to the search for the Northern White Rhino.
However, to help make this a success story, we rely on your donations to extend our operations into South Sudan. Please give what you can to bring a species from hurt to hope.”
Dr Johan Marais – CEO of STS