The Northern White Rhino ‘Suni’ was found dead on the 17th October 2014 in his enclosure in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, aged 34 years. Suni had not fathered any offspring, and his death leaves only six of his species left on the planet. Of which, only one is a male. The death of such a beacon of hope does not spell for a good future of his subspecies.
It’s hard to suggest what could be done to help creatures like this rhino. This subspecies has little hope for the future at all, which is a sad thing but the truth is sometimes never pretty. Additionally, the fact that this rhino died at a peak adult age, of apparently natural reasons, does not suggest the a life in captivity suits creatures like this.
There is always going to be a problem of having animals like rhinos and elephants in captivity, which is a problem that has to be addressed if the populations ever get so low. For starters… I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but elephants and rhinos are big creatures. I’ve stood next to an Asian elephant, and next to a fully grown female I believe that the distance from the top of her forehead to the base of her trunk was almost as tall as my entire height (and I’m an averaged sized 20 year old female). They are huge. Graceful, but huge, and from what I learned in Thailand, they are hard to care for. The amount of food they go through daily takes a lot of time and money to grow and prepare… and so it may not be something that a zoo, or any captive breeding programs are really capable of doing. Additionally their ranges are staggering, and their social behaviour is complex enough to sometimes compel large herds of the creatures over hundreds of kilometers for a reason that only they seem to know.
I don’t think that elephants and rhinos would ever be able to do well in captivity, in zoos or even in the National Elephant Park, which is the closest thing Elephants can get in Thailand to living back in the wild after a life of a domesticated creature. It’s a sad opinion to have, and upsetting as well… and I can only hope that things are done in time to stop it ever reaching a point like that. Suni died in captivity, because the last of his species are in captivity. Imagine if the same thing happened for the African elephant (either of the two species?)… or any of the other rhino species?