New documentary hopes to discover extinct northern white rhinos



The Last Unicorn is a very special one hour documentary following the search to discover a previously unknown population of northern white rhinos, a species officially declared extinct in 2018.

BBC Two today announces The Last Unicorn, a very special one hour documentary from the Natural World strand, which will see BBC Studios Natural History Unit follow charity Saving the Survivors as they travel to South Sudan in the hope of discovering a previously unknown population of northern white rhinos, a species officially declared extinct in 2018 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two, says: “Natural World on BBC Two has always covered the most urgent and important stories in conservation and this project could not be more timely.”

Vianet Djenguet, wildlife cameraman, says: “I am extremely excited to be involved in this search for this majestic and beautiful species - if we succeed it gives us a second chance to save the northern white rhino, a win in the war against reckless poaching, and fresh hope for the people of South Sudan.”

Doug Hope, Executive Producer for BBC Studios Natural History Unit, says: “It is a long shot, there is no denying that, but there are rumours of them out there, and in a place that is so remote, so unexplored. Yet, from what our sources are telling us, it remains prime rhino habitat, so surely there is still a chance? And until this search is carried out we can’t close the book on the northern white rhino.”

South Sudan is the youngest country in the world. Declared independent in 2013, it has seen conflict and civil war for the past 20 years. With a death toll in the millions, it was at one time the bloodiest and most dangerous place on Earth and is still, according to the UN, a high-risk country. No film crew has been allowed access for nearly ten years. It is a country with no infrastructure, no permanent roads, no electricity, no power grid, no phone networks and no internet.

Larger in area than France, it has a population of no more than seven million. It is also home to what is thought to be the second largest mammal migration in Africa (second only to the wildebeest of the Serengeti).

No access to wildlife NGOs means no survey or comprehensive search of any of South Sudan’s wildlife has been undertaken in over a decade.

So when recent reports surfaced indicating that local people are seeing an animal believed to be extinct, an expedition had to happen. Once the species’ stronghold, if there is going to be an undiscovered population of northern white rhino anywhere in the world, then South Sudan is the best and last chance we have.

A team of experts led by Paul Naden (expedition leader Saving the Survivors), accompanied by wildlife cameraman Vianet Djenguet, vet Johan Marais and high security expert Aldo Kane are heading into this vast and unknown world. Using the latest technology and local knowledge to leave no stone unturned, they will do whatever it takes, to answer the question once and for all – do we have a second chance?

In addition to searching for the northern white rhino, the team from BBC Studios Natural History Unit will use camera traps and brand new drone technology which has never been used in the field before, which uses software to recognise different animals, to also film elephants, giraffe, leopards, honey badgers, antelope, warthogs and baboons.

The Last Unicorn, a 1x60’ for BBC Two, is made by BBC Studios Natural History Unit. It was commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two and Jack Bootle, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Science. The Executive Producer is Doug Hope.

More information on the Northern White Rhino

On 20 March 2018 Sudan, the last male of his kind, passed away and marked the end of his species; the northern white rhino was functionally extinct with only two old females, unable to reproduce, remaining on the earth with us.

The northern white rhinoceros is one of two subspecies of the white rhinoceros (the other being the southern white rhinoceros). The northern white rhino used to range over parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1907 - The northern white rhino is officially identified as a distinct species of rhino
1960 - Estimated numbers of over 2,000 in the wild made them more abundant than their relatives in the south, the southern white rhino
1970 - The numbers of northern white rhinos have halved in the last decade alone and are declining at an alarming rate
1975 - The continued decline in the species sees a Czech zoo import five as a precautionary measure
1981 - The northern white rhino is declared critically endangered
1984 - It is reported that only 15 known northern white rhinos are left to exist in the wild. This number rises to 31 but due to continued poaching, any meaningful efforts are nullified
2008 - This year marks the last official sighting of the northern white rhino in the wild and only six remain in zoos
2009 - Four rhinos are shipped from the Czech zoo to Ol Pejeta in Kenya where it is hoped their natural environment will encourage them to breed
2015 - With the remaining rhinos in zoos sadly passing away, only three remain in Kenya
2018 - In March, the last male northern white rhino dies, with only two infertile old females remaining on the earth. The northern white rhino is declared functionally extinct

Source BBC TWO

February 26, 2020 4:05am ET by BBC TWO  


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