The Last 3 White Rhinos on Earth
Nola, one of the last four known Northern White Rhinoceroses in existence, died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California.
The 41-year-old female underwent surgery on Nov. 13 to drain a hip abscess, and her health declined to the point that the zoo decided it had no choice but to euthanize her. “We’re absolutely devastated by this loss, but resolved to fight even harder to #EndExtinction,” the safari park said in a Facebook post. “Let this be a warning of what is happening to wildlife everywhere.” Nola had been a big attraction at the park since 1989.
The Northern White Rhino has been hunted to near-extinction largely by poachers seeking their horns to sell to Asia, where they are ground up and used in medicine. There are still about 29,000 rhinos in the wild, according to Save the Rhino — down from about 500,000 in 1900 — but about three are killed each day. The three remaining Northern White Rhinos, two elderly females and an elderly male, roam a 70-acre enclosure at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy under 24-hour armed guard. The two females are too old to bear offspring, and the male’s sperm count is “disappointingly low,” according to the Kenyan conservancy.
The San Diego Zoo is trying to keep the species alive, bringing in six Southern White Rhinos — about 20,000 left — to hopefully act as surrogates for Northern White Rhino embryos, but scientists aren’t sure the species are genetically compatible. In a best-case scenario, that puts a baby Northern White Rhino 10 to 15 years away. You may never get to see one alive, but you can watch Nola in this video the San Diego Safari Zoo Park posted in January, when their prized rhino only had a cold. Peter Weber