Saving a Species

Sudan, a 45-year-old Northern white rhino who lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, passed away from age-related complications on March 20th, 2018. He was the last remaining male Northern white rhino of his kind. Today, only two female Northern white rhinoceros remain in the world.

With  50 years of zoo experience, Dr. Larry Killmar is the Zoo Director for ZooTampa at Lowry Park.  In the 1970’s, he was a zookeeper at the San Diego Wild Animal Park (now called San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park).  Dr. Killmar had the privilege of working with two male and two female Northern white rhinoceros. At the time there were no Northern white rhinos in the US.

“Little was known about the reproductive history of these four animals and given the information we had, we determined they were older.  The rhinos adjusted well to the large habitat but reproductive viability was our biggest worry,” said Dr. Killmar. “Our concerns and interest in this species did not stop with these four animals.  We took an additional step to acquire a single male that was living by himself from the Khartoum Zoo. We hoped he would reproduce with our other two females, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case”.

In the early 1990’s, Dr. Killmar was asked to participate in a meeting hosted by White Oak Plantation. This meeting brought together all interested parties from the U.S. and the range countries of the species in an effort to develop a plan to save the remaining wild population.  The group met for three days, but did not come to a mutual agreement. The clock was ticking and the end of this species was near. The goal of moving 20 remaining rhinos in the wild to a safe environment in Kenya did not happen.

“We tried,” said Dr. Killmar. “All we could do is try. And we did.”

In response to the death of Sudan this week Dr. Killmar was asked to reflect on what this death signifies.

“We slowly watched a species disappear, which could have been prevented. Many species have disappeared over time and the rate of extinction is rising. There is a long-term consequence that affects each and every one of us. All animals contribute to our way of life,” said Dr. Killmar. “We are not in the position to pick and choose what species disappears next. If we dig deep, we can see the connection of each animal to each other and to us.”

“Our mission at the Zoo is to support local and global conservation initiatives. Our job is to tell these stories and educate guests on the perils animals face in the wild. Our goal is to inspire guests to take an action of conservation and to connect them to these incredible species.  Our hope is that other animals don’t suffer the same tragic fate of the Northern white rhinoceros.”

It is up to us, to end extinction. You can join us in our mission of conservation in the following ways:

  1. Reduce, reuse and recycle!
  2. Buy sustainable seafood.
  3. Be a conscious shopper and purchase products that are made with sustainable palm oil.
  4. Donate to the Zoo here: https://zootampa.org/support/donate/
  5. Adopt a Zoo animal here: https://zootampa.org/support/adopt/
  6. Visit the Zoo – every dollar, every ticket, every membership makes a difference!