Celebrities Head to Africa to Help Save the World's Last Male Northern White Rhino

Bollywood star Nargis Fakhri and Egyptian TV host Khaled Naga are among those hoping to draw attention to the nearly extinct species.
Sudan. (Photo: Elodie A. Sampéré/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)
May 20, 2015· 2 MIN READ
John R. Platt covers the environment, wildlife, and technology and for TakePart, Scientific American, Audubon, and other publications.

One of the world’s most critically endangered animals is about to get a little star-studded support.

Over the next few months, as many as 18 celebrities from around the world will travel to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where they will have the opportunity to meet one of the planet’s rarest animals: Sudan, the last male northern white rhino.

Only five northern white rhinos remain alive, and Sudan is 42. Three of them live at Ol Pejeta. Two other elderly females live at zoos in San Diego and the Czech Republic. None of the animals is capable of breeding naturally. Ol Pejeta is exploring artificial means of reproduction to preserve the species.

The first of the celebrities to make the trek, Bollywood actor Nargis Fakhri (who costars in the new Melissa McCarthy movie Spy), will arrive later this week. Known for her work to help conserve India’s tigers, Fakhri on Monday implored of her 10 million Twitter followers, “Don’t let this uniquely beautiful animal become extinct!”

The stars’ visits came together almost by accident. A few months ago, Ol Pejeta launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the rangers who guard the rhinos from poachers around the clock. A Twitter hashtag to promote the fundraising effort, #LastMaleStanding, went viral. Not only did it get tweeted thousands of times but it also attracted powerful eyes.

RELATED: A Desperate, Last-Ditch Effort to Save the Final Five Northern White Rhinos

A Dubai, UAE–based television producer and entrepreneur named Hamid Hussain subsequently contacted Ol Pejeta, said Elodie A. Sampéré, the organization’s communications specialist. “Hamid is passionate about supporting conservation," Sampéré said, "but rather than directly giving money he wanted to use his connections and company to get celebrity support for rhinos.”

Sampéré said they were surprised by how many celebrities came on board. “To be honest, we did not choose the celebrities. They chose us.”

Ol Pejeta has two major goals for the visits: The most important, Sampéré said, is to raise awareness of the plight of the northern white rhinos and to make sure that the world’s other rhino species do not face similar fates.

The second goal in many ways supports the first. They want to raise awareness of Kenya as “a great tourism destination,” Sampéré said, as eco-tourism will help to fund conservation efforts at Ol Pejeta and in other parts of the country. Serena Hotels and Kenya Airlines are sponsoring the visits.

Fakhri's visit will be followed in a few days by the arrival of Khaled Abol Naga, an award-winning Egyptian actor, director, and TV host who is known for his human rights activism and work to help children.

Other celebrities are discussing visiting Sudan throughout June. Their names will be announced soon.

“Throughout his involvement with UNICEF, Naga has frequently addressed difficult and taboo issues affecting children in Egypt, including HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, children's rights, street children, and adolescents’ development,” Sampéré said. “His activism also extends beyond children, and it is hoped he can use his influential platforms to highlight the plight of Ol Pejeta’s northern white rhino to a wider audience.”

You can follow the celebrities’ visits under the hashtag #Stars4theLastMaleStanding.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction May 21, 2015:

An earlier version of this article did not note the full name of Khaled Abol Naga, who is also an actor as well as a director and TV host.