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Endangered Northern White Rhino Dies In San Diego

With Nola’s death, only three northern white rhinos remain in the world

Photo credit: San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy

This undated photo shows Nola, a critically endangered northern white rhinoceros, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Photo credit: Susana Tsutsumi and Brooke Ruth

Click to enlarge. Paleontologists believe that 60 different species of rhino ancestors once inhabited North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. There are now 5 living rhino species. Sources: WWF, Save the Rhino.

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Nola, one of the last remaining northern white rhinos in the world, died Sunday in San Diego, according to San Diego Zoo Global.

The 41-year-old rhino underwent surgery on Nov. 13 to remove a large abscess deep in her pelvic region, according to zoo spokesman Andrew James. The surgery was successful in removing 90 percent of the infected material, but the rhino began to reject food and was lethargic in the days following the surgery.

The animal care team provided round-the-clock care to Nola and intensified its treatment efforts before deciding to euthanize the animal, James said.

Nola had also been fighting a bacterial infection and age-related health issues for the past few months. She had been at the Safari Park since 1989.

In a news release about her death, the zoo said:

"Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide. She was one of only four northern white rhinoceros on the planet. Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts. Nola leaves a legacy that her keepers and animal care staff hope will continue to help rhino conservation for years to come."

In recent months, representatives of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya have held discussions on how to save the northern white rhinoceros species, which is on the brink of extinction.

Only three northern white rhinos are left in the world — a male and two females at the conservancy.

Most of the remaining rhinos are too old to reproduce, according to the zoo.

The zoo's representatives discussed collaborating with the conservancy on ways to save the species. Northern white rhinos became extinct in the wild in 2008, due to intensified poaching.

Earlier this month, a half-dozen southern white rhinos were brought from South Africa via chartered jet to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as part of the zoo's effort to save their northern white rhino cousins.

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research hopes to develop embryos from frozen northern white rhino cells and implant them in the southern white rhinos, which would serve as surrogate mothers.

The southern white rhinos brought to San Diego are all females between the ages of 4 and 7.

Genetic material from a dozen northern white rhinos has been preserved at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, for future reproductive opportunities, zoo officials said.

Nola's male companion, Angalifu, died at the age of 44 in December. A female northern white rhino also died in July at a zoo in the Czech Republic.

Reported by Nicholas Mcvicker

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