With the Death of San Diego’s Northern White Rhino, the Population Drops to Three.

white rhino 2

 

With the Death of San Diego’s Northern White Rhino, the Population Drops to Three

Decimated by poaching, the species finds test tube breeding to be its last hope for survival.

A northern white rhino was euthanized Sunday at its enclosure in San Diego’s Safari Park, leaving only three of the species left in the world.

Nola, a 41-year-old, 4,500-pound female, had been under veterinary care for a bacterial infection as well as age-related health problems. Her condition worsened over the weekend, according to zoo officials.

 “We’re absolutely devastated by this loss, but resolved to fight even harder to end extinction,” the San Diego Zoo posted on its Facebook page.

Nola was captured in the wild and brought to a Czech zoo at around two years of age. She arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 1989.

The world’s three remaining northern white rhinos—one male and two females—live on a 700-acre preserve in Kenya, under armed guard to protect them from poachers. Age and poor health have rendered them incapable of reproduction.

Northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) cow called Najin, watched over by armed guard, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Laikipia, Kenya, Africa, September 2012

 

In 1960, as many as 2,000 northern white rhinos roamed across Chad, the Central African Republic, southwestern Sudan, northeastern Zaire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and northwestern Uganda. By 1984, that number had dwindled to just 15 animals.

Along with habitat loss, poaching—fueled by the rise in demand for rhino horn used in traditional Asian medicines—has effectively snuffed out the northern white rhino species.

But conservationists hold out hope that technological advancements in in vitro fertilization over the next 10 to 15 years may save the species.

RELATED: Rhinos Arrive in San Diego to Become Surrogates and Help Save a Species

Earlier in November, San Diego received a shipment of six female southern white rhinos—a species with a population around 20,000—to serve as potential surrogate mothers to northern white rhino fetuses.

The idea is to harvest the remaining eggs from the remaining female northern white rhinos and fertilize the eggs with northern white rhino sperm currently in frozen storage. The resulting embryos would be implanted in the southern white rhino females. Conservationists hope to breed a northern white rhino calf by this method by 2025 or 2030.

 

 

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