China laments demise of last male northern white rhino

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/3/22 16:53:40

A ranger takes care of Sudan, the world's last male northern white rhino, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia county in Kenya earlier in March. Sudan has died after "age-related complications" researchers announced Tuesday, saying he "stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength." Photo: IC

People all over China are grieving after the world's last male northern white rhinoceros died on Monday, and called for better protection of Africa's megafauna.

"The death of Sudan is a wake-up call for us all to contemplate the long term effect of our actions," commented Ma Weidu, a Chinese antique connoisseur and rhino protection advocate, in an interview with Xinhua.

Sudan, the last male of the species, aged 45, was euthanized at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, after unsuccessful attempts to alleviate age-related health problems, his keepers announced on Tuesday.

His death leaves only two female survivors of the subspecies - his 27-year-old daughter Najin and 17-year-old granddaughter Fatu, who remain at Ol Pejeta.

"The only hope for the subspecies now lies with in vitro fertilization," said an Ol Pejeta press release.

"Sudan spent his final years teaching us the consequences of killing driven by greed," said Ma. "The tragedy of the rhinoceros is one of those consequences, and for humanity, the tragedy has only begun."

On World Rhino Day last year, Ma endorsed WildAid's rhino conservation campaign, saying, "Collectibles rooted in killing are valueless."

"Ivory and rhino horn products dating from any historical period should be banned from public trade and auctions," suggested Ma. He has asked major international auction houses to put an end to all forms of rhino horn sales, including antiques.

Remembering Sudan

"When I embraced Sudan, I knew I would remember his tenderness for as long as I live," recalled Jiang Yiyan, a Chinese actress and WildAid ambassador who met the rhino at Ol Pejeta in 2016."Nor will I ever forget the gunshots of the poachers who made Sudan the last, lonely male northern white rhino," she said.

Despite his advanced age and failing sight, Jiang described Sudan as amiable, genial and defenseless.

"We should immediately stop harming such amazing animals," she said.

Former NBA All-Star Yao Ming is among the public figures who work to save endangered species by calling on the Chinese public to stop buying wildlife products."I was deeply saddened by the news," Yao Ming posted on Wednesday, with an archive image of Sudan. Yao visited Ol Pejeta as a WildAid ambassador in 2012.

Battling smuggling

During the this year's legislative sessions, the country's leadership called for more energy and concrete measures to protect flora and fauna as part of China's development strategy.

Last June, a man was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 40,000 yuan (about $6,300) for attempting to smuggle 8.8 kilograms of ivory through Beijing airport. The Chinese criminal code stipulates prison terms of up to life and substantial fines for those who break wildlife protection laws.

"With more stringent legislation and law enforcement, black market prices for rhinoceros horn are about one-third of what they once were," said Peter Knights, founder and CEO of WildAid on World Rhino Day last year.

All sales of rhino horn have been illegal in China since 1993, and rhino horn has been removed from the traditional Chinese medicine handbook. Since 2011, all rhino horn items have been banned from auctions.

Earlier this month, 21 tech firms including China's Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent, announced the foundation of a global coalition to end wildlife trafficking online. The coalition brings together the companies and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) with the aim of reducing online wildlife trafficking by 80 percent by 2020. Other founding members of the Coalition include Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Ebay.

In China, a similar project has been monitoring illegal online sales of wildlife products since 2015.

A collaboration between TRAFFIC and Tencent tracks illegal trade on Tencent's platforms, including instant messaging app WeChat, with its more than 1 billion active accounts. WeChat users can easily report their suspicions via the account "Penguin loves Planet Earth."

"The project will ensure real progress in tackling online wildlife trafficking through social media," said Steven Broad, executive director of TRAFFIC.

Newspaper headline: Final farewell

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