With the news out of Africa yesterday regarding the death of the only male Northern White Rhino on the planet, the future of this species hangs in precarious balance.
Last week, artists Gillie and Marc, a husband and wife duo out of Sydney, Australia, installed a temporary sculpture depicting the last remaining Northern White Rhinos at Astor Place, in Manhattan, bringing attention to the plight of this species on the brink of extinction. The piece, entitled "The Last Three", was a wake up call to us all and to the fact that we are to blame for the extinction of yet another species due to senseless poaching.
Worth more than gold at the current price of $60,000 per kilogram, the horns of these beautiful creatures have been cruelly cut off these animals for some time. Unless measures are put in place to end the trade, the future does not look good for this animal's survival.
From a population of nearly 40,000, we were now down to just three Northern White Rhinos in existence on our planet when the sculpture was placed. With the announcement of the death of the last male rhino, Sudan, there are now just two females left; his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu.
The only hope we have in avoiding the disappearance of another species is if one of the two females can successfully become pregnant through artificial insemination from semen collected from Sudan while he was still alive.
The last two Northern White Rhinos, Najin and Fatu, will remain under close guard at the conservancy, as their very lives are threatened by poachers who sell their horns on the black market to satisfy the hunger of the Chinese medicine trade.
Sudan, who was 45 years old (very old for the species), spent his last days at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where he would ultimately be put to sleep for age-related complications.
In light of this news, it brings to mind the work of another artist that we have profiled here at SOLD, whose mission, through his art, is to draw awareness to this very issue. Sonny Sundancer, from South Africa, with his To the Bone Project, strives to put a spotlight on threatened and endangered animals around the globe. In New York City this past year, he painted a giant lion, supported by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), above Allen Street, as well as a tiger (for the CAT Project) through L.I.S.A. Project NYC and Animal Planet.
In addition to these murals in Manhattan, his work is seen in cities across the globe, with hopes of making a difference to the lives of many. In December, he painted a polar bear in Miami to draw attention to climate change and habitat loss, which in turn puts the future of this northern creature at great risk of joining the ranks of the Northern White Rhino. And in London, he painted the very rhino whose extinction draws near.
Another artist of note in this movement to consider and respect the existence of creatures other than ourselves is Louis Masai, whose "Art of Beeing" project has highlighted the endangered status of many animals around the world. Some of these animals include California's Coho Salmon and Miami's Manatee, as well as the New England Cottontail.
It is through the beautiful work of such artists, drawing attention to a discussion many would prefer to not have, that we might hope to see some positive and focused change on animal welfare on this planet.
We are sharing the world with some amazing creatures. It's about time we start appreciating them.