Prof Thomas Hildebrandt has been collecting the samples with colleagues for about 15 years

For over 20 years, Thomas Hildebrandt has harboured a dream: to save the northern white rhinoceros, the world’s rarest large mammal.

On Monday the scientist received the devastating news that Sudan, the last male of the species, had been put down in his northern Kenyan home, aged 45. Hildebrandt’s office is full of pictures of him, on which he points out the species’ unique pearl-like skin, furry ears, huge feet for tackling swamps, and horns capable of lifting two tons.

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