Tag:  Death

Photos: How The Last White Male Rhino Died In Kenya 

Photos: How The Last White Male Rhino Died In Kenya 

A northern white rhino and the last male of his subspecies, died Monday at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The rhino named ‘Sudan’ — once called by the dating app Tinder as the “most eligible bachelor in the world” — was 45 years old and in poor health.

Before he was euthanized by a veterinary team, photographer Ami Vitale was able to say farewell to her old friend.

“It was heartbreaking yesterday, but I was relieved I could say goodbye,” Vitale said. “He leaned his head right into me and then the rains came pouring down, just as they had when he arrived here nine years ago.”

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy has been the home of northern white rhinos since 2009. There were only eight then, according to photographer Ami Vitale. Now there are just two left, and both are females.

Vitale first met Sudan in 2009, when he and three other northern white rhinos — among the last of their kind — were moved to Kenya from a zoo in the Czech Republic. The subspecies had been reduced to eight worldwide because of poachers, who target rhinos for their horns.

Workers at the conservancy watch the rhinos around the clock and protect them. The hope was that the climate and the extra room to roam would entice them to breed. But time ran out on Sudan, and now there are only two northern whites left in the world: his daughter, Najin, and his granddaughter, Fatu.

“It was really hard on all of his keepers,” Vitale said. “They’ve fallen in love with him. They say they wake up in the morning and see (the rhinos) often before they see their own children. They say, ‘These are our babies.’ ”

Sudan is comforted Monday before his death. He had been in poor health, and he was euthanized by a veterinary team.

Workers from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy watch Sudan’s final moments on Monday. They had cared for the rhino for the past nine years.

Vitale said Sudan was a gentle soul. He was very affectionate; one vet called him a sweetie-pie.

“When he was first brought back to Africa, there were these torrential rains,” Vitale remembered. “I realized it was the first time he had rolled in African mud since he was a young rhino. It was beautiful watching him reconnect with where he came from.

“Then yesterday when those rains came, he perked up. He was lying down, and he just pushed his head right up.”

Vitale, her voice slightly cracking with emotion, said it was like Sudan’s life had come full circle.

“When he died, it was silent except for one little go-away-bird chirping ‘go away, go away, go away.’ ”

Fatu and Najin are the last two northern white rhinos left on the planet. Najin is Sudan’s daughter and Fatu is his granddaughter.

There still might be hope, however, for the northern white rhino. Scientists have saved some of Sudan’s genetic material, and they hope to use in-vitro fertilization to bring the subspecies back. They’ll have to use a southern white rhino as a surrogate, Vitale said, but they like their chances.

Even if they’re unsuccessful, Sudan’s death can leave an important legacy.

“At the very least, Sudan is an ambassador for so many other species that need our attention,” Vitale said. “This can be an incredible wake-up call. Even if you live 10,000 miles away, you can make a difference with your awareness or tourism dollars.

“Not all is lost. Even if we don’t save the northern white rhino, we can save the other threatened rhinos and a host of lesser-known species whose numbers are dwindling everywhere.”

A wildlife ranger at Ol Pejeta looks after Sudan and the last northern white rhinos. The conservancy also protects other rhinos.

Vitale has been taking photos for National Geographic magazine since 2008, and she credits the rhinos for changing her career path.

For the first decade of her career, she covered conflicts around the world. Then in 2009 she learned about the rhinos’ story.

“When I first saw these ancient, gentle, hulking creatures, they broke my heart,” she said. “I couldn’t believe they had survived for millions of years but could not survive humanity.”

It altered the entire trajectory of her work. She has since covered the plight of pandas, and she’s now working on a story about giraffes and elephants.

“In a world of 7 billion people, we must see ourselves as part of the landscape,” she said. “Our fate is linked to the fate of animals. … We are so intricately connected. Take one species out and everything starts to crumble.”

One of the northern white rhinos leaves a Czech zoo to go to Kenya in 2009.

The western black rhino was declared extinct seven years ago, another victim of the lucrative and illegal rhino-horn trade.

Vitale hopes Sudan’s story can raise more awareness about the problem and that along with the efforts of zoos and wildlife conservancies, we can start to see positive change soon.

“I wasn’t one that loved zoos in the past, but I learned how important and critical their role is in saving these species, as do conservancies like Ol Pejeta,” she said.

She said it was heartbreaking to see the sadness of the Ol Pejeta workers after Sudan passed away.

“They’re the real heroes, these men and women protecting all of these species,” she said. “There are people, often with very little, making huge impacts in their communities and the planet.”

Fatu, right, grazes with her mother and a southern white rhino hours after Sudan passed away.

Ami Vitale is a National Geographic photographer based in Montana. You can also follow her work on Instagram.

Photo editors: Bernadette Tuazon and Natalie Yubas



Renowned Scientist Stephen Hawking, Dies At 76

Renowned Scientist Stephen Hawking, Dies At 76

Steven Hawking

The brilliant British theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who overcame a debilitating disease to publish wildly popular books probing the mysteries of the universe, has died, according to a family spokesman. He was 76.

Considered by many to be the world’s greatest living scientist, Hawking was also a cosmologist, astronomer, mathematician and author of numerous books including the landmark “A Brief History of Time,” which has sold more than 10 million copies.

With fellow physicist Roger Penrose, Hawking merged Einstein’s theory of relativity with quantum theory to suggest that space and time would begin with the Big Bang and end in black holes. Hawking also discovered that black holes are not completely black but emit radiation and will likely eventually evaporate and disappear.

Stephen Hawking Fast Facts

Hawking suffered from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a neurodegenerative disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which is usually fatal within a few years. He was diagnosed in 1963, when he was 21, and doctors initially only gave him a few years to live.

The disease left Hawking wheelchair-bound and paralyzed. He was able to move only a few fingers on one hand and was completely dependent on others or on technology for virtually everything — bathing, dressing, eating, even speech.

Hawking used a speech synthesizer that allowed him to speak in a computerized voice with an American accent.

“I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many,” he wrote on his website.

“I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.”

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking on October 10, 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey.
Cosmologist Stephen Hawking on October 10, 1979 in Princeton, New Jersey.

Hawking was married twice. He and his first wife, Jane Wilde, wed when he was still a grad student and remained together for 30 years before divorcing in 1995. Hawking was later married for 11 years to Elaine Mason, one of his former nurses.

Hawking was born in Oxford, England, on what turned out to be an auspicious date: January 8, 1942 — the 300th anniversary of the death of astronomer and physicist Galileo Galilei.

In an exclusive interview with CNN in October 2008, Hawking said that if humans can survive the next 200 years and learn to live in space, then our future will be bright.

The amount of people trying to see Stephen Hawking's thesis crashed Cambridge University's website
The amount of people trying to see Stephen Hawking’s thesis crashed Cambridge University’s website

“I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space,” Hawking told CNN’s Becky Anderson.

“It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn’t have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let’s hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the load.”

At Cambridge, he held the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics — the prestigious post held from 1669 to 1702 by Sir Isaac Newton, widely considered one of the greatest scientists in modern history.

Yet Hawking once said if he had the chance to meet Newton or Marilyn Monroe, he would opt for the movie star.

Hawking became a hero to math and science geeks and pop culture figure, guest-starring as himself on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Simpsons.”

He had at least 12 honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. A CBE, or Commander in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, is considered a major honor for a British citizen and is one rank below knighthood.

Stephen Hawking: 'I may not be welcome' in Trump's America
Stephen Hawking: ‘I may not be welcome’ in Trump’s America

Despite being a British citizen he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the US’s highest civilian honor, in 2009 by President Barack Obama.

In September 2016 Hawking joined 375 “concerned” scientists in penning an open letter criticizing then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, citing the threat of climate change and blasting his push for the US to leave the Paris Accord.

Fellow scientists hailed Hawking for his work and influence in the field.

“His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake,” tweeted Neil deGrasse Tyson. “But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure.”

“A star just went out in the cosmos,” tweeted Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist. “We have lost an amazing human being.”

Hawking leaves behind three children and three grandchildren, according to his website.

“We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today,” Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said in a statement. “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world.”

“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”



Religious Nun Who Worked With St. Padre Pio Dies At 101

Religious Nun Who Worked With St. Padre Pio Dies At 101

Sister Consolata di Santo

Sister Consolata di Santo, was one of the first religious sisters to work in the hospital developed by St. Padre Pio. She died March 2 at age 101, according to the Italian publication Avvenire.

Born 1916 in Sant’Eramo al Colle, Italy, she was the youngest of 10 children, who all went on to be consecrated to God. Her mother, before she died and received Last Rites, had asked for this grace for her children, Avvenire reported.

In September 1955, Sister Consolata was one of three sisters who came to San Giovanni Rotondo, where the hospital was located.

She told Teleradio, that when she first met the saintly man (Padre Pio), she was struck by his “beautiful smile and playful demeanor.” He told the three sisters to not worry because other religious would arrive. Six months later, there were already 15 religious working in the “Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza.”

Sister Consolata worked at the hospital for 20 years, caring for patients alongside Padre Pio.

In 1975, Sister Consolata stopped working at the hospital at age 59. According to Avvenire, she entered the cloister with the Capuchin Poor Clares to prepare for “a holy death,” believing that she would die within a few years. However, she would go on to live for 42 more years, in a life of prayer and poverty until her death in the first week of March. 

This article was originally published by ACI Stampa.

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