This week, the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, finally died from age-related complications along with a newly developed infection on the back of his right leg. To prevent the complete death of the species, Sudan had been kept under the protection of armed guards at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Conservationists expected his death, but regardless, his passing still shocked the world.
Though most news outlets have reported that Sudan died at the age of 45, most chose to omit the fact that he was euthanized. Would it be that the news agencies are trying to steer the public perception of Sudan’s death away from the conceptual “bad” death? The problem with this is that according to Michael C. Kearl, Sudan died according to the predetermined scripture. By definition, his passing should be considered good as it was an “on time” and those closest to him had felt the warning of his death. This serves to bring up the idea that his putting down might have been left out of major news stories due to the negative stigma associated with human euthanasia. The putting down of animals is something that has garnered near universal support over the past couple of decades, even receiving approval from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Though Sudan is not considered a human being, the status he had garnered before his death on social media and in the news granted him the title of essentially a celebrity. Therefore, due to the social stigma associated with assisted suicide and euthanasia for human beings, certain news outlets might have chosen to omit this information due to Sudan’s transcendence of status.
The dismay felt by the world is not solely directed at his death but the “death” of the northern white rhino species as a whole. The issue that arises with Sudan’s death is while it should serve as the species’ death warrant, the intervention of medical practices and technologies are complicating the process. Similar to an extent to the case of Terri Schiavo, developing technologies are making individuals question whether this truly means the end for the species. The Schindler’s experienced the same confusion when doctors provided information on unproven therapies and treatments that could restore brain function to their daughter. What the general public is currently dealing with is the initiative by scientists to attempt to take sex cells harvested from northern white rhinos and use them through the method of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) to impregnate southern white rhino surrogates. Though the technology is experimental, it leaves the general public in a state of uncertainty similar to that of Terri Schiavo’s parents, unsure of whether to mourn the death of the species or not.