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NPR Arts & Life

Swipe Right To Help Save The Northern White Rhino From Extinction

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Here's a dating profile written to turn heads.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

I'm one of a kind. I perform well under pressure. I like to eat grass and chill in the mud.

CORNISH: Still interested? Well, here's more about this bachelor from wingman Richard Vigne.

RICHARD VIGNE: He's old, so he has all of the ailments that you would associate with elderly people - so there's arthritis in his back legs, and he's a little bit slower than a younger person would be. But he still has a healthy appetite.

CORNISH: OK, Richard Vigne is actually CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and the eligible bachelor he's describing is a 43-year-old northern white rhino named Sudan, the last known male northern white rhino in the world due to a long history of human mismanagement and poaching.

SHAPIRO: Ol Pejeta Conservancy is located in Kenya. It protects Sudan along with the last two female northern whites. The last three rhinos were brought together in 2008 to start a breeding program to save the species, but the effort didn't work. And now Sudan, the exclusive bachelor rhino, is old.

VIGNE: In human terms, probably 95 years old. So he's incapable of normal breeding.

CORNISH: Since Sudan can't breed normally, Ol Pejeta is turning to in vitro fertilization technology.

VIGNE: It's common in humans. It's common in other species, domestic livestock such as cattle. But it's never been done in rhinos. So we estimate that we need something in the region of $9 to $10 million.

SHAPIRO: Vigne admits this is expensive, so this is where that dating profile comes in. Ol Pejeta Conservancy teamed up with the dating app Tinder.

CORNISH: Tinder users can find Sudan the rhino's profile, swipe right and donate to the breeding efforts.

VIGNE: In the overall scheme of things, to save the species from becoming completely extinct, especially and iconic, charismatic species like a rhino, in our minds is money well-spent.

SHAPIRO: If the in vitro fertilization is successful, Vigne says this could also help scientists save other endangered species.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE RHINO SONG")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Mr. Rhino, look what grows - two big horns on the tip of your nose. You got two bad eyes. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.