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Nola’s death means 3 northern white rhinos left in the world!

San Diego from Point Loma

On Sunday, Nola, one of four endangered northern white rhinos in the world, died in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. (My image of San Diego from Point Loma is above.)

The San Diego Union-Tribune continues:

The 41-year-old rhino had been under veterinary care for a bacterial infection and age-related health issues. Her condition took a turn for the worse over the weekend, San Diego Zoo Global said in a statement. Early Sunday morning, the Safari Park team “made the difficult decision to euthanize her.”

It is a crushing loss for the Safari Park, where Nola had lived since 1989. The gentle 4,000-pound animal was a favorite with the staff because of her sociable personality and love of back scratches. She was also a popular attraction for Safari Park visitors, who could always spot her because of her distinctively curved horn.

After decades of poaching, there are only THREE northern white rhinos remaining in the world, a male and two females, all on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Nola had been caught in the Sudan when she was approximately 2 years old. She came to the Safari Park in 1989 from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic as part of a breeding program. But she and her fellow northern whites had already made a big impression on her new hosts.

“I met Nola and her group of rhinos in July of 1986, when I traveled to what was then the Czech Soviet Republic. The Soviet Army was there, and so was this group of northern white rhinos,” said Oliver Ryder, director of genetics, Kleberg Chair, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “The last week I was there, a baby rhino was born. It made a big impression on me because these enormous creatures were so gentle and so cautious and curious with this baby rhino. I was impressed yet again that there is a depth to their lives that we don’t understand.”

At first, the plan was for Nola to mate with Angalifu, the Safari Park’s northern white rhino male. Although they mated, there was no pregnancy with either Nola or another female, Noti. Noti died in 2007, and Angalifu died last December. Then in July, Nabire, a female northern white rhino living in the Dvur Kralove Zoo, died at the age of 32.

Now, neither of the Ol Pejeta northern white females able to give birth naturally due to advanced age or reproductive issues. It will be up to science to save the subspecies. The San Diego Union-Tribune continues:

The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s Frozen Zoo contains viable cell cultures from 12 different northern white rhinos. Genetic materials from Nola have been preserved, and the plan was always to collect her ovaries and any viable stem cells upon her death.

With the help of in-vitro fertilization, the hope is to use the recently arrived southern white rhinos living in the Safari Park’s new Rhino Rescue Center as surrogates for a hybrid rhino, which would be created with northern white sperm and southern white eggs.

San Diego Zoo Global has one of the world’s most successful rhino breeding programs. To date, a total of 94 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. As the genomic research, technology and procedures become more advanced, the goal would be to create complete northern white rhino embryos, which the southern whites would carry to term.

“The white rhinos represent the wild places and prehistoric animals that are still with us,” said Steve Metzler, interim associate curator of mammals, who accompanied the Rhino Rescue Center’s six southern whites on their 22-hour flight from Johannesburg to San Diego. “It is devastating to think that in just a few hundred years, we can wipe that out. That is just wrong, and we need to do something about it.”

-Bill at

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