Joseph Wachira, 26, comforts Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino on the planet, moments before he passed away in March.
Ami Vitale—National Geographic Creative
By Nargis Fakhri
December 20, 2018
IDEAS
Fakhri is an actress.

On March 19, the world’s last male northern white rhino died. His name was Sudan, and he was beautiful.

I met him in 2015, on a trip to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where he would pass away. I was there to help bring awareness to the plight of the northern white rhino, and to help raise money to save them.

When I met Sudan, I was in awe. I never could have imagined how beautiful he was. When I went to meet Sudan, I had been afraid of him—being aware that wild animals are unpredictable. But his presence was mighty and robust, yet tranquil. It seemed as if he had developed a close friendship with one of the caretakers. It was as if they could talk to each other. I felt so small and wondered how we are contributing to the demise of this brilliant beast and not working harder to save them.

When I heard Sudan had died, I felt like humanity had failed. A feeling of hopelessness took over, but despite that feeling, I am always willing to help in any way that I can.

Sudan and his kind will now only live in photos like this one. One can dream that it will make even more people are becoming aware of how devastating and alarming the extinction crisis is, but I fear it is still not enough. Hopefully 2019 will bring us better news.

To see TIME’s top 10 photos of 2018, click here. To see its top 100 photos, click here.

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