The last male northern white rhino has died in Kenya, keepers have confirmed.
The 45-year-old animal died from “age-related complications”, leaving only two females of his subspecies alive.
In a statement, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya said the rhino, called Sudan, was put down after his condition “worsened significantly” and he was unable to stand.
Scientists have gathered his genetic material and are working on developing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to save his subspecies.
In a statement, the zoo wrote: “Sudan will be remembered for his unusually memorable life.
“In the 1970s, he escaped extinction of his kind in the wild when he was moved to Dvůr Králové Zoo. Throughout his existence, he significantly contributed to survival of his species as he sired two females.
“Additionally, his genetic material was collected yesterday and provides a hope for future attempts at reproduction of northern white rhinos through advanced cellular technologies.
“During his final years, Sudan came back to Africa and stole the heart of many with his dignity and strength.”
Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s CEO, said: “We on Ol Pejeta are all saddened by Sudan’s death.
“He was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity.
“One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists worldwide.”
The northern white rhino population in Uganda, Sudan, Chad and Central African Republic was largely wiped out by poachers in the 1970s and 1980s, fuelled by a demand for rhino horn in traditional Chinese medicine and dagger handles in Yemen.
Four fertile northern white rhinos, two male and two female, were moved from a zoo in the Czech Republic to Ol Pejeta with high hopes they would breed in an environment similar to their native habitat.
Although they were seen mating, there were no successful pregnancies.
The other male rhino, Suni, died of natural causes in October 2014.
Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, said: “Sudan was the last northern white rhino that was born in the wild. His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature and it saddened everyone who knew him.
“But we should not give up. We must take advantage of the unique situation in which cellular technologies are utilised for conservation of critically endangered species. It may sound unbelievable, but thanks to the newly developed techniques even Sudan could still have an offspring.”