Sudan: The Last of the Rhinos Natural World


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Sudan: The Last of the Rhinos

The story of 43-year-old Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet, who has become an unwitting celebrity and the focus of a desperate battle to save his sub-species.


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This programme contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting.

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Sudan, come on, boy.

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This is the remarkable story of an animal who survived

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the destruction of the rest of his species.

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He's travelled the globe from the open savannas of Africa, to a closed

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world behind the Iron Curtain.

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Now as the very last male of his kind,

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he's become an unwitting celebrity in an astonishing modern-day fable.

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The whole story is not only about animals, but it's a story

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about our human nature.

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And the focus of a battle to save a species we pushed to the very

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brink of extinction.

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You look at that great big lumbering dinosaur and you think, hey,

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what did we do wrong? Why did we end up in this crazy situation?

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Sudan is inside a pen and we will maintain the right-hand side

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and we will avoid talking. We will talk when we come out of Sudan.

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So maybe one person at a time can have a chance

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to have a photo with Sudan.

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It's amazing for us to have him here.

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He's really popular.

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I mean, he's like a little star, you know, a Hollywood star.

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This is the last male.

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People of all over the world have written about him

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and people are coming here to film him,

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people are coming here to photograph him.

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We have a calendar for Sudan,

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because we don't want to have more than one film crew or one journalist

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coming to visit him during a day, because he needs to rest.

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He's got followers on Facebook, on Instagram, you know,

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he's got his own hash tag.

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So if you search for #LastMaleStanding on Twitter,

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you will see that he's quite popular.

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I would go as far as saying that he's the most popular

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rhino on the planet.

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A lot of people have heard about Sudan

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because of what's happening to the species.

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This is not a Kodak moment.

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It's a real shame that it's now that people are coming to see Sudan, but

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the bottom line is, people are interested in crisis, aren't they?

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And this is a crisis.

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Sudan's kind have roamed our planet for some 50 million years.

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He's a northern white rhino, a subspecies,

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once abundant in central Africa.

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But which today is on the edge of extinction with just three animals

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known to be alive. Sudan and his two female companions.

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This is a very big problem because how can you save a species which is

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already declared as extinct?

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That's why science has to come in.

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So everybody, welcome to this meeting.

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We are very, very privileged to have very,

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very expert people at this table.

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There are veterinarians here, there are reproductive experts here,

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there are conservationists here.

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I spent 22 years living with the northern white rhinos in the wild.

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Despite everything we've done,

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you know, we're down to,

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reduced to a small known number.

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It's terrible to have got to this stage.

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This meeting of experts, global experts,

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is going to try to find a way of introducing emerging technology

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into the northern white rhino rescue programme,

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which is extremely challenging.

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We're trying to find a way of making sure these animals

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continue to exist.

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We're racing against time,

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because there's only three animals left on the planet,

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of which only two are females.

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And Sudan is an old rhino. He could die tomorrow.

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This rhino lived for several millions of years on our planet.

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Yeah, he looks quite active. Yeah.

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And it would still live another several millions,

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but the perversity of going for the horn

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brings them into this situation.

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And I think humans did that,

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and humans have the responsibility to correct it.

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The tale of how Sudan came to be the last male on the planet

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begins 40 years ago, when he was just a baby.

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There's no picture, photograph of Sudan as a baby.

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He was actually born in the South Sudan,

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in an area where there were not many people.

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But like all baby rhinos, he would have stuck close to his mother.

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When it was really hot, he might have been sheltering under her

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to be in the shade or they would both be sitting under a tree or,

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you know, by a bush.

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He'd be very close to her everywhere, going everywhere,

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very close with her.

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At his age, he would have been going between the grass but his mother

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would have been holding her head over the grass.

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And they call to each other, a little meow, meow, meow.

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Little mews that rhinos call to each other as a contact call,

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so they don't get lost.

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It's the one time in a rhino's life

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when they are hugely vulnerable

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is when they're small. Probably the biggest threat are hyenas,

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number one. Number two, probably lion, and of course, human beings.

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That little fellow, all he wants to do is just be with his mum and he

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knows that's his only chance.

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If he gets separated from his mum, he's terribly stressed out.

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Sudan was two years old.

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He was the youngest of the whole lot that we caught.

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It was the Chipperfield family's, sort of, brainstorm

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to start safari parks.

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And it was a new concept, totally new way of showing animals, wild

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animals. Longleat was the first one in the world

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and I happened to get a job there.

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Richard Chipperfield started setting up safari parks in many other

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countries in Europe.

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So obviously, he needed more and more animals.

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It was exhilarating.

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It was great fun.

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I enjoyed it.

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You roped the animals and then everybody grabs the animal

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from all angles.

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And then take it back to camp.

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You have to remember, in those days, there was SO much wildlife around.

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Herds of thousands or more elephants.

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It was not uncommon at all.

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I don't think anybody sees that many elephants in one herd today.

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So it was like, sure, you take a few individuals to go to safari parks

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and people in Europe can see these animals and appreciate them.

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When the Chipperfields wanted someone to go out

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and join the capture team, I quickly volunteered and was accepted

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and within a few days, there I was in Africa.

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In 1974, Richard asked me to take some of our crew and go up to Shambe

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in South Sudan, because he had heard

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that there were northern white rhinos up there.

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In the years preceding Sudan's birth,

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a wave of heavy poaching dramatically reduced

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the number of northern white rhinos, driving the survivors

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into increasingly remote areas.

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Well, it was an adventure, because South Sudan was seriously primitive.

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This was quite a rare species

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and we had an actual order to catch six -

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two males and four females.

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We had to find the right sort of size.

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Something that is definitely weaned, but not too grown either.

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So that they were pretty easy to shape, you could say.

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They would tame down and adjust easier to a different life.

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When we went to catch it, the first job in the morning,

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I used to go up with a pilot and float around in the sky

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like a vulture and we'd fly round until we found the rhinos.

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And then, it was just a question of being able to get them on the move,

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nip in, steal one.

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My pole was going directly behind the animal's head, that's so

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he couldn't see me. Couldn't see my rope.

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It came to that split second and then I knew

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that all I'd got to do was that.

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I can remember catching Sudan.

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He put his head straight through my noose and...got him.

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I don't think I ever felt that I was doing wrong,

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but I suppose I couldn't help but have some sympathy.

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An animal's being taken away from the herd, or from mothers.

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It can't have been easy.

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Sounds crazy, but in a way, we were saving them

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from the risk of poaching.

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What would have happened to Sudan if you hadn't captured him?

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He'd be dead.

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For sure. A long time ago.

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They all would.

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Annie stayed with the six rhinos, and then eventually,

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they moved them out from there and took them into Uganda

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and on the train down to Mombasa.

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Then they shipped from Mombasa to Europe.

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And then headed into the communist bloc to the Czech Republic.

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Czechoslovakia, as it was then.

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The rhinos were on actual order from Jo Vagner.

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He was a TV personality in Czechoslovakia as it was then.

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He had a weekly show about wildlife and he was the director

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for Dvur Kralove Zoo, collecting all sorts of various species.

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THEY ARGUE IN CZECH

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Oh, she will not talk English at all.

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This is Sudan.

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-Yes.

-My father took six to Czech Republic, to Czechoslovakia.

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And actually, I remember my grandfather,

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whenever he had time, he came,

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he jump in this little corridor, I don't know how you say it,

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and he was talking to them. They always came.

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He whistled on them. He has his own special whistle.

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He whistled and they were far, far away.

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He whistled, and they came to him

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and he was just like patting them

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and telling them, everything will be all right.

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And they're in safe place in the world

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and it was a really touching story. Yeah.

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This is a white-lipped rhinoceros

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and it's got this wide mouth,

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because it eats lots of grass.

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We don't have a fence.

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It's much nicer when you can look them in the eyes.

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Of course, there has to be some kind of protection, because otherwise,

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the rhinos could kill the visitors.

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-TRANSLATION:

-Our aim is not only to display these animals.

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We want them to reproduce.

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I want these animals to survive in their new home so in the future,

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our nation's children will have the chance of coming

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face-to-face with them.

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Don't get me wrong, certainly the folk who had the northern whites in

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captivity, you know, they're good people and they tried terribly hard

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to give them as natural an environment as possible.

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But unfortunately, they never could give them what they had in the wild.

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And that is one of the huge issues about what happened

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to the northern whites.

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Well, this is a stained-glass window that's...Garamba.

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I wanted to put something here that was really Garamba.

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As you can see, there's a rhino at the bottom,

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the long grass and the blue is supposed to be the Garamba river,

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curving away and Mount Bagunda in the background.

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-Sort of a memorial?

-Well, sort of, yes.

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I've been reliving so much of it.

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I just thought it was...

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a nice thing to have in one's house.

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It was at the end of the '70s.

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I started working in a rhino conservation.

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We found that northern white rhino populations were going downhill

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very rapidly.

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Doctor Kes Hillman, a young zoologist,

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has been investigating the rhino slaughter in Africa.

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Kes, just how endangered are the rhinoceros at the moment?

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Well, some species of rhinos,

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there's only about a tenth of the numbers that there were in the past,

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so if anything desperate was to happen,

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the species could be wiped out.

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In Africa and Asia, the rhinoceros is being ruthlessly hunted

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and in some parts, it's in danger of extinction.

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And all because of its horn,

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which in many places is regarded as an aphrodisiac.

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All the countries where the northern white rhino unfortunately naturally

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occurred were incredibly unstable.

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And instability and civil war, etcetera, means increased poaching.

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And poaching, it makes money to keep the war going.

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Armed conflict across central Africa in the 1970s and early 1980s

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helped wipe out the northern white rhino population...

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..except for a small stronghold in the Garamba national park.

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Garamba is 5,000 square kilometres.

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It's a long, narrow park up in the North

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of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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The remaining northern white rhinos in the world were living there.

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In March 1984,

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we were asked to come in to help to protect this precious population.

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When they first counted, there were about 14 rhinos left in Garamba.

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But clearly, enough to turn things around

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and get a nice population going.

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Obviously, security is the most important issue.

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We started up law enforcement monitoring,

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training groups of guys from the local town.

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It was always a concern when you've got a very small population

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like that and they are in a relatively dangerous area,

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because there was still war going on in Sudan.

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It's a risk.

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But I believe it's really important to protect them

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in their natural habitat, rather than in zoos.

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Because it's clearly a perfect habitat for them.

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The survival of the northern white rhinos was now dependent

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on the success of two tiny populations.

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15 who roamed free in Africa and seven kept behind the Iron Curtain

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in Czechoslovakia.

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-TRANSLATION:

-It's pretty obvious that we can't leave it up to nature

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to make sure this species survives.

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There are so few of these animals left, we've got to step in and help.

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-TRANSLATION:

-Here in chilly Czechoslovakia,

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we're breeding these tropical African animals.

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Our zoo is famous because it's one of the few zoos around the world

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involved in reproducing these rare rhinos.

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Well, I guess by the early '90s,

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Kes and her team had stabilised the situation.

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The rhino were breeding up nicely.

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Population increasing, and I think she was now comfortable to say,

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"Let's get to know a bit more about these rhinos."

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In Garamba, I was trying to observe the northern white rhinos' natural

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behaviour and you were trying to understand what makes a population

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survive and grow under natural conditions.

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What I found was that like with every African rhino species,

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the dominant males fight for and hold a territory

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and they defend that against other dominant males.

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And you would get fighting between males at that stage.

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With all rhino, the dominant male basically,

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he's got to strut his stuff, hold his area.

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All of this competition is terribly important to fire them up.

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Their testosterone levels are up and they're good for breeding.

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The males will leave dung and urinate around their territory,

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so another male coming in will think, "Oh, dear.

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"He's here. I'd better stay away or I'd better be wary or..."

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And a female would, "Woo hoo!

0:28:340:28:35

"He's here!", you know, "Let's go in there."

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In Garamba, it was just a very healthy situation

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and they were just producing babies all the time.

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That was wonderful. Whenever you see, you know, see a new calf,

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"Oh, so-and-so's had a baby!", you know,

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and we'd decide what we were going to call it.

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Kes was hugely successful.

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These animals were now safe in Garamba.

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You know, this is where they had evolved.

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This is where they had always, you know, done well.

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You know, the white rhinos were in paradise.

0:29:160:29:18

By the mid-1990s,

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the rhino population in Garamba had more than doubled to 31.

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In captivity, there had been three births.

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But also two deaths.

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And as Cold War tensions eased, three were lent to San Diego zoo

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in the hope that they would breed there.

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In 12 years, the rhinos in Garamba had doubled

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and the rhinos in captivity weren't doing so well.

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You know, they were in concrete enclosures and of course,

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they would be leaving dung in those areas and then going back

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and another one would be coming out, and so, it was quite confusing

0:29:580:30:02

for the rhinos.

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They seemed to develop the most peculiar shaped horns,

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because they can't rub them in the same way

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that they do in the wild.

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It's a very unnatural situation for them.

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-TRANSLATION:

-I'm no longer very optimistic.

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They're just vegetating here.

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They're living in conditions which look good

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but don't provide for their biological needs.

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By that stage, Sudan had spent almost 20 years in captivity.

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Who knows what went on in his mind, we'll never know.

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Physiologically, I think there must be something negative happening,

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something, you know, less than perfect.

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It must have taken a long time to make peace with his different

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environment he's in.

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You can imagine, it was clearly a very difficult situation.

0:34:010:34:05

As the numbers of northern whites became less and less,

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these animals became more of a valuable drawcard for the zoo.

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I'm just saying it's a possibility that folk might have hung on to them

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longer than they should have,

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because they knew people were fascinated.

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"Let's go and have a look at them before they're all gone."

0:34:200:34:22

Keeping the rhinos in zoos is not totally natural,

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but on the other hand, it's important for people...

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You know, in the West to be able to see these animals and to realise the

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importance of conserving them in the wild and as we now see,

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they're are an important back-up, because, you know,

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you can't always predict what's going to happen in Africa.

0:34:460:34:48

THUNDER RUMBLES

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-REPORTER #1:

-Congo is sliding ever deeper into chaos.

0:34:520:34:54

-REPORTER #2:

-The Sudanese government

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says it's putting down a rebellion in Darfur.

0:34:560:34:58

There is fighting on the streets of Kinshasa tonight,

0:34:580:35:01

and this war could spread across central Africa.

0:35:010:35:03

Kes had no illusions about, you know, the potential

0:35:070:35:12

for instability in Garamba.

0:35:120:35:14

She knew that it had always been a very unstable part of Africa,

0:35:140:35:18

so anything could happen, and yes, anything did happen.

0:35:180:35:20

In 2004, we suddenly detected these groups of horsemen.

0:35:230:35:28

These guys are actually a sort of mix of tribes,

0:35:290:35:33

but generally known as the Umberoro.

0:35:330:35:35

And they are age-old elephant hunters from Sudan...

0:35:350:35:40

..but the war had changed things.

0:35:420:35:44

They're now armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers and hand grenades.

0:35:440:35:49

We set up observation posts on hills and reinforcement posts.

0:35:550:35:59

But still they were sort of advancing towards

0:36:030:36:06

the elephant and rhino areas.

0:36:060:36:08

One day, I was, I happened to be in the radio room,

0:36:090:36:12

and they suddenly started calling on the radio about...

0:36:120:36:15

"Cheval, cheval!"

0:36:150:36:16

There were horses in the park.

0:36:160:36:18

We jumped into the plane and flew out over that area.

0:36:230:36:27

We flew along the Aka Garamba River.

0:36:280:36:32

We found a couple of guys on horseback and a trail of donkeys,

0:36:350:36:42

loaded with what was probably ivory and rhino horn.

0:36:420:36:45

When we went back and we surveyed the area where they'd been,

0:36:500:36:54

it was just a devastation of rhinos massacred everywhere.

0:36:540:36:57

It was a real, huge massacre.

0:36:590:37:02

There was a nine-year-old female, who was killed just down here.

0:37:030:37:09

You know, she'd had her horn absolutely hacked off at the front.

0:37:090:37:13

You know, and she was quite young.

0:37:140:37:16

She was a perfect, reproductive age female.

0:37:160:37:19

You know, it was a real tragedy.

0:37:190:37:21

It is every time that you find them dead.

0:37:210:37:24

Later on, any rhino skulls that were found were brought in and we,

0:37:350:37:40

you know, identified them for sure.

0:37:400:37:44

We did a survey in July that year

0:37:440:37:48

and we could only find 14 rhinos

0:37:480:37:53

at that stage in the park.

0:37:530:37:55

By December, I did another survey and could only find nine rhinos.

0:37:570:38:02

And then, in 2008, they didn't actually see any.

0:38:030:38:07

We didn't quite get it right in Garamba.

0:38:110:38:14

I know that we did the best we could,

0:38:160:38:19

that circumstances that were not usually conservation issues,

0:38:190:38:24

they were political and power issues, were what,

0:38:240:38:29

generally, caused the problems.

0:38:290:38:32

And that's so often, so often the case.

0:38:330:38:35

It's been the story across Africa in the last 30, 40 years,

0:38:380:38:41

how our wildlife populations have been decimated

0:38:410:38:44

as a result of political instability.

0:38:440:38:46

And they were all killed?

0:38:460:38:48

They were all killed. There are no northern white rhino

0:38:500:38:53

left in Garamba. That's for sure.

0:38:530:38:56

My predecessors spent about 40 years trying

0:39:070:39:10

to keep the northern white rhinos alive and, you know,

0:39:100:39:15

to give them the best possible conditions for breeding.

0:39:150:39:18

But it's difficult to change

0:39:190:39:21

decisions that were made in the past.

0:39:210:39:23

But today, it's obvious that we still feel responsibility for them.

0:39:230:39:28

Now we are in the basement of a zoo.

0:39:310:39:33

And as we enter into archive, we have a library here.

0:39:380:39:41

And we have diaries, in which we wrote all the main things

0:39:410:39:46

that happened to animals that we breed here.

0:39:460:39:49

From 1975 to 2009,

0:39:520:39:54

Sudan's life is here.

0:39:540:39:56

By 2009, the situation in the zoo was like, I wouldn't say desperate,

0:40:000:40:07

but people believed it would be good to do something,

0:40:070:40:10

to try something else.

0:40:100:40:12

Time was running out, you know.

0:40:160:40:18

These are five animals in captivity,

0:40:190:40:22

who are now some of the last representatives

0:40:220:40:24

of this subspecies, in the world.

0:40:240:40:26

But it was sort of my idea to see if putting the four most healthy ones

0:40:280:40:33

back in a natural environment would improve their breeding.

0:40:330:40:36

We just had to get them out and give them a go.

0:40:360:40:38

I was there when Sudan walked out of his crate

0:41:520:41:55

and put his foot on African soil for the first time in 30 years.

0:41:550:41:57

Yeah, it was a pretty extraordinary experience.

0:41:570:42:00

The keeper's from the Czech Republic.

0:42:200:42:22

He had this sort of crazy Czech language, you know,

0:42:220:42:24

and the keeper's talking to them and, hey, somewhere along the line,

0:42:240:42:27

I guess Sudan had learned Czech!

0:42:270:42:30

You could just see happy rhinos.

0:42:340:42:37

You could see definitely an improvement in their health,

0:42:370:42:39

their whole sort of demeanour.

0:42:390:42:41

They had more freedom and loved the climate here and things were looking

0:42:410:42:46

very positive. We might just have pulled it off.

0:42:460:42:48

So a lot of things changed for the better and gave us hope that this

0:42:520:42:56

process of bringing them back to Africa was going to result

0:42:560:42:59

in not only mating activity, but successful pregnancies.

0:42:590:43:02

They started mating pretty quickly.

0:43:040:43:05

Now, the problem was, when mating activity happened,

0:43:050:43:09

it never resulted in a pregnancy.

0:43:090:43:11

It was then that we started looking more closely at the reasons why.

0:43:120:43:16

We work with elephants, tigers, lions, giant panda, octopus.

0:43:270:43:32

The main goal of our activities is to understand

0:43:340:43:37

reproduction in wildlife, especially in endangered species.

0:43:370:43:42

Two years ago, they brought our team in

0:43:460:43:48

to examine the two remaining females in Ol Pejeta.

0:43:480:43:53

We did ultrasound examination.

0:43:530:43:55

We found dramatic pathological changes on them.

0:43:550:43:59

We found that if there is no ongoing reproduction,

0:43:590:44:05

then it has a negative impact on the ovaries, the uterus,

0:44:050:44:10

these females already shut down their reproduction.

0:44:100:44:13

They were not more reproductively active.

0:44:130:44:15

Sadly, the truth of the matter is,

0:44:180:44:20

because the females hadn't bred for such a long period

0:44:200:44:22

in zoo conditions, they were now no longer able to conceive.

0:44:220:44:26

By the time this discovery was made,

0:44:270:44:30

the remaining captive rhinos in San Diego and the Czech Republic

0:44:300:44:34

had all died.

0:44:340:44:35

And in Ol Pejeta, one of the four rhinos who had returned

0:44:360:44:40

died suddenly of a heart attack.

0:44:400:44:42

The world population now stood at just three.

0:44:430:44:47

Hello, big boy.

0:44:490:44:50

Hello, big boy.

0:44:510:44:53

Hello, big boy.

0:44:540:44:56

Hello, big fella.

0:44:560:44:58

Hello, big fella.

0:44:580:45:00

Hello, big chap.

0:45:020:45:04

Hello, fella.

0:45:040:45:05

Hello, big fella.

0:45:260:45:28

Hello, big chappy chap.

0:45:300:45:31

Hello, boy. Hello, boy.

0:45:310:45:34

Maybe having some small dreams of when he was a little fellow

0:45:360:45:40

in Sudan all those years ago.

0:45:400:45:42

He's definitely a bit more rickety on his legs.

0:45:460:45:48

He's definitely a bit more frail.

0:45:480:45:50

He struggles to get up in the morning.

0:45:500:45:52

His back leg hurts him, so you know, yeah, he's an old man.

0:45:520:45:55

We have to expect that he will die sometime soon.

0:45:550:45:59

I'm just afraid now, if the other leg starts to become weak,

0:46:020:46:07

the right leg becomes weak, we've got a problem.

0:46:070:46:11

Either what will happen is he'll have a heart attack

0:46:130:46:15

and he'll fall over, dead, or he will...

0:46:150:46:19

If he gets into a position where he can't move,

0:46:190:46:21

which brings lots of complications for big-bodied animals,

0:46:210:46:24

then eventually, you'd have to think of euthanasia.

0:46:240:46:26

You'd have to put him out of his misery

0:46:260:46:28

just like you would do an old dog.

0:46:280:46:29

But the truth is, even if Sudan dies, we can still save the species.

0:46:310:46:35

And it's morally incumbent upon us to try to make this happen.

0:46:360:46:40

These are especially protected cryo containers,

0:46:550:46:59

which have an alarm system which calls us

0:46:590:47:01

when something is going wrong.

0:47:010:47:03

And in here are the samples from the different rhinos.

0:47:090:47:12

It is really the backbone of the programme.

0:47:160:47:18

That's sperm samples.

0:47:210:47:23

We have to have a quick look.

0:47:230:47:25

That straw is where the sperm is stored.

0:47:260:47:28

We have samples here from northern white rhinos which are all dead.

0:47:280:47:33

And we also have samples from Sudan in Ol Pejeta,

0:47:330:47:38

and that makes four males which we can use

0:47:380:47:41

for the in vitro fertilisation programme.

0:47:410:47:45

There is no way that these animals can reproduce natural wise.

0:47:450:47:49

The only way to help would be to use science.

0:47:490:47:53

They advance the product of science.

0:47:530:47:55

Although there's plenty of sperm stored in Berlin,

0:47:580:48:01

the scientist will also need eggs

0:48:010:48:04

from the two remaining females in Ol Pejeta.

0:48:040:48:07

They plan to harvest these eggs, known as oocytes,

0:48:070:48:10

fertilise them with northern white rhino sperm,

0:48:100:48:15

and transfer the embryos into a herd of surrogates.

0:48:150:48:18

The closely related, but less threatened, southern white rhinos.

0:48:180:48:23

The resulting calves could form the basis for a new generation

0:48:250:48:29

of northern white rhinos.

0:48:290:48:32

In vitro fertilisation in cattle and horses is a regular occurrence.

0:48:340:48:38

The problem is, it's never actually been done

0:48:380:48:41

in rhinos as a species.

0:48:410:48:43

This process has to be perfected

0:48:440:48:46

before the last remaining females die.

0:48:460:48:49

If those females die tomorrow, which could happen for whatever reason,

0:48:490:48:53

then the last remaining repository of northern white rhino eggs

0:48:530:48:57

would be lost.

0:48:570:48:59

We have to act very quickly, because Najin is already 26 and Fatu is 15,

0:49:030:49:09

so the biological clock and the time window we can be successful,

0:49:090:49:14

it's very short.

0:49:140:49:15

It's quite a big burden when you do something new that you can't fear,

0:49:170:49:22

but, in this case...

0:49:220:49:25

..no failure allowed.

0:49:270:49:28

That's the female we do.

0:49:430:49:44

Before they act as surrogates for the northern white,

0:49:460:49:49

captive southern white rhinos have another role to play.

0:49:490:49:51

IVF has never been successfully carried out on rhinos before,

0:49:530:49:56

so the scientists will practise on this closely-related sub species.

0:49:560:50:00

In any other animal, this procedure's pretty straightforward,

0:50:000:50:04

but a rhino being so large and long and, it needs all

0:50:040:50:07

these special equipment which makes the whole procedure

0:50:070:50:12

very, very difficult.

0:50:120:50:13

A two-tonne animal is challenging.

0:50:150:50:18

Now it's a very long distance, we can't reach always with the hand.

0:50:180:50:21

Therefore, we have to go 1.5 metres inside and that's impossible to do

0:50:210:50:26

it via the vagina approach, which is the standard procedure in humans,

0:50:260:50:31

cattle and horses. We have to go through the rectum.

0:50:310:50:34

Carla is her name.

0:50:350:50:37

Do you think that she's nervous?

0:50:370:50:39

Oh, I think we are more nervous!

0:50:390:50:41

I see the obstacles. I am not stupid.

0:51:040:51:06

I'm a scientist. There are a lot of still unsolved problems.

0:51:060:51:10

But we have a species here which is nearly extinct

0:51:100:51:14

due to human activity,

0:51:140:51:16

and we have, maybe, the tools in our hands to stop that.

0:51:160:51:19

We take the mounted ultrasound probe about a metre inside the animal and

0:51:220:51:27

then inside the animal,

0:51:270:51:28

you have to find the ovary and then hold it at the right position

0:51:280:51:32

for Thomas to go with the needle into the ovary,

0:51:320:51:35

aspirating the oocyte out.

0:51:350:51:37

It's a lot of effort, a lot of time and also money and resources but

0:51:390:51:45

there's not many other options.

0:51:450:51:47

If we operate, there's our needle very close

0:51:490:51:51

to a very large blood vessel.

0:51:510:51:53

And if we puncture that, then we would lose the patient.

0:51:560:52:00

Good.

0:52:030:52:04

So far, so good. The whole procedure went really well.

0:52:100:52:13

We aspirated the oocytes, hopefully,

0:52:130:52:16

and Thomas is trying to find them at the moment under the microscope.

0:52:160:52:19

Yeah.

0:52:230:52:24

We found six oocytes.

0:52:280:52:31

I lost one, so we have five oocytes.

0:52:310:52:34

We'll send them off to a lab and then they add the sperm,

0:52:340:52:39

they inject the sperm.

0:52:390:52:41

-OK.

-And we'll know more in about three days,

0:52:410:52:43

whether this works or not.

0:52:430:52:45

OK.

0:52:530:52:54

If we can prove that this procedure is not doing harm to animals,

0:52:550:53:01

and we are capable to produce embryos out of that...

0:53:010:53:03

..then we would test that on Fatu and Najin.

0:53:050:53:09

Cheers. Cheers.

0:53:090:53:10

The rhinos' eggs are couriered nearly 800 miles

0:53:120:53:15

to a specialist lab in northern Italy.

0:53:150:53:18

There, after they are fertilised, they should begin dividing.

0:53:200:53:24

Within days, they'll grow into a bundle of cells

0:53:290:53:32

known as a blastocyst.

0:53:320:53:34

Only if they reach this stage have they got a good chance

0:53:340:53:38

of becoming a healthy baby rhino.

0:53:380:53:40

Science is characterised by failures.

0:53:500:53:52

By successes, but also by failures.

0:53:520:53:55

We are quite disappointed about this outcome.

0:53:550:53:59

One of the oocytes developed into an embryo,

0:53:590:54:03

but at a very early stage, it stopped.

0:54:030:54:07

We have a problem with the whole development of the blastocyst.

0:54:080:54:11

The failure to produce a viable rhino embryo

0:54:170:54:20

means the scientists have had to recruit more southern whites

0:54:200:54:23

from zoos across Europe to practise on.

0:54:230:54:25

We are close.

0:54:310:54:32

We are not there, but we are close.

0:54:320:54:34

We made a lot of progress over the last months.

0:54:340:54:37

But science is not predictable.

0:54:370:54:40

We can't say at the end, we will be for sure successful.

0:54:410:54:46

We can't.

0:54:460:54:47

We now know that we have the power to destroy the rhinos.

0:54:490:54:52

What we try to do now is actually to see whether we have the power

0:54:540:54:59

to save them.

0:54:590:55:01

We have to accept that we might fail.

0:55:030:55:06

The day Sudan goes, it's going to be, it's going to be hectic,

0:55:200:55:24

you know, in terms of media and people are going to want pictures

0:55:240:55:29

and they're going to want to write about him and stuff like that,

0:55:290:55:31

so I'm afraid to say that we are ready.

0:55:310:55:33

We've got a press release ready, just for the day he goes,

0:55:330:55:36

just because we need to be, you know.

0:55:360:55:38

I don't know if the zoo is going to want his bones back, to be honest,

0:55:380:55:41

because, you know, in the end, he's their animal.

0:55:410:55:43

And if we are not allowed to keep his bones,

0:55:450:55:47

then we would definitely put a headstone for him

0:55:470:55:49

at the rhino cemetery.

0:55:490:55:50

In an ideal world, we wouldn't need

0:56:350:56:38

to try to save the northern white rhinos.

0:56:380:56:41

Sudan.

0:56:410:56:42

The breeding programme in Czechoslovakia,

0:56:420:56:45

it would have been really successful, you know,

0:56:450:56:48

they would flourish in the central Africa.

0:56:480:56:50

They would roam the large savannas there.

0:56:500:56:52

Unfortunately, this didn't happen

0:56:540:56:56

and it's only due to human activities.

0:56:560:56:59

I think this dilemma we're going to face more and more in the years to

0:57:140:57:18

come, you know, there are, with so many species just, you know,

0:57:180:57:22

tiny populations left and would it be best to put them in captivity

0:57:220:57:26

or best to take their chances in the wild?

0:57:260:57:29

There are some species which have done extremely well in captivity,

0:57:300:57:34

but I think we understand now that some animals just don't do very well

0:57:340:57:38

in a zoo environment, that they probably shouldn't be there.

0:57:380:57:41

You know, safety from being poached...

0:57:410:57:44

..but not breeding, ultimately, it's as lethal, essentially,

0:57:450:57:51

as having them in the wild, with the threat of poaching.

0:57:510:57:54

The northern white rhinos are just a symbol of what we do to the natural

0:57:570:58:01

world. It's very visible with the northern white rhinos,

0:58:010:58:04

because we witnessed the last three animals and we witness,

0:58:040:58:08

you know, they're disappearing, actually, in front of our eyes.

0:58:080:58:11

But there are many, many other species disappearing

0:58:120:58:16

but we cannot see it so clearly, like we see it

0:58:160:58:18

with the northern white rhinos.

0:58:180:58:20

# Oh, nobody loves the rhinoceros much

0:58:340:58:37

# If you ask the reason why

0:58:370:58:40

# They will tell you because of his scaly touch

0:58:400:58:43

# Or his hard and glittering eye

0:58:430:58:45

# But should you ask a truthful man

0:58:450:58:48

# You will get this quick response

0:58:480:58:51

# I do not trust that thing on his nose

0:58:510:58:54

# The bodger on his bonce!

0:58:540:58:56

# Oh, the bodger on the bonce!

0:58:560:58:59

# The bodger on the bonce!

0:58:590:59:02

# Oh, pity the poor old rhino with

0:59:020:59:05

# The bodger on the bonce! #

0:59:050:59:07

The remarkable story of 43-year-old Sudan, the very last male northern white rhino on the planet. Aged just three, Sudan was snatched from his mother's side in Central Africa. He became a prized exhibit in a zoo behind the Iron Curtain, while the rest of his kind was poached to extinction in the wild. Today, Sudan has become an unwitting celebrity and the focus of a desperate eleventh hour battle to save his sub-species. This astonishing modern-day fable is told through the international cast of characters who have been involved in Sudan's life, for better and for worse.