The future of the northern white rhino is looking bleak. Only two are left in the world – both are female. But scientists have an outlandish plan to save them from extinction.
When I went to meet the rhinos in Kenya, they began circling the car.
So I was alarmed when their caregiver, James Mwenda, opened the car door.
“We can get out of the car?” I asked.
“Yeah, they’re calm,” he assured me.
But when I did, one ran towards me – it didn’t seem very calm.
I hid behind the other side of the car as Mr Mwenda tried to reassure me that they were not scared of humans, though it didn’t stop me being scared of rhinos.
The rhino, called Najin, who had approached us was tame because she had been brought up in a zoo in the Czech Republic.
She now lives in a massive fenced off area of Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya. In 2009 she was one of four northern white rhinos, two male and two female, who were brought from the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic to this large enclosure in an attempt to get them to breed.
The thinking was that if they were taken to a rhino’s natural habitat this might change.
But it didn’t work. The four mated but the two females, Najin and her daughter Fatu, did not give birth.
Then the two males died. First 34-year-old Suni, who died of natural causes in 2014. Then, four years later, 45-year-old Sudan was put down because of wounds to his skin that would not heal – and his muscles and bones had degenerated.
Now Najin and Fatu are the only northern white rhinos left in the world – and neither can carry a pregnancy.