One of the last four northern white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) has died at San Diego Zoo, leaving just three individuals remaining.
Nola, a 41-year-old female, had to be put down on Sunday November 22 due to deteriorating health after receiving surgery on an infected abscess in her pelvis.
A statement on San Diego Zoo’s Facebook page said: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the death of Nola, a critically endangered northern white rhino who lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This is a very difficult loss for the animal care staff who worked with her, our volunteers, guests, and to her species worldwide.
"Please take a moment to share your memories of Nola and your sympathy using the hashtag #Nola4Ever. Nola’s legacy will live forever as her death leaves just three northern white rhinos on the planet.”
The three remaining northern white rhinos all live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where they are under 24/7 protection by armed guards. To discourage poachers, the last remaining male – Sudan – has had his horn removed. The two remaining females are infertile.
Poaching was one of the main causes of this species’ decline, although it was once abundant across Chad, the Central African Republic, southwestern Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northwestern Uganda.
A huge blow to these rhinos came through the totally unregulated hunting activities of European colonizers throughout the 19th century.
Their numbers managed to bounce back slightly and there were more than 2,000 as recently as 1960. However, the growth of the upper-middle class in East Asia has seen a huge increase in demand for their horns, which are believed to cure everything from hangovers to cancer in traditional Asian medicine, although we know their horns have no medicinal properties.
Although things currently look bleak for the northern white rhino’s future, San Diego Zoo has started a $2 million (£1.3 million) plan to save the species with the help of their much more bountiful cousins, the southern white rhino. Scientists believe they might be able to use the southern white rhinos to act as surrogate parents to their northern cousins through in vitro fertilization (IVF).