The extinction of the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) draws ever closer. Nola, a 41-year-old female that has lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1989, was euthanized this morning after she stopped eating and her activity levels dropped. Nola had undergone surgery on Nov. 13 to drain an infected abscess within her pelvic region. The surgery was successful, but the zoo reports that Nola’s condition worsened over the past 24 hours.
With Nola’s death, there are now only three northern white rhinos left on the planet, all of which live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
The two remaining female rhinos are incapable of natural reproduction. The last surviving male, Sudan, has a very low sperm count but the conservancy still has hopes for in vitro fertilization.
San Diego Zoo recently set aside $2 million as part of an effort to keep the species from going extinct by implanting northern white rhino embryos into surrogates from the related southern white rhino subspecies (C. s. simum). That plan may still come to fruition, as the zoo has a collection of suitable genetic material in its Frozen Zoo.
Northern white rhinos went extinct in the wild after years of extensive poaching for their valuable horns, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. The last wild northern white rhinos were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006.
Nola is being eulogized today on Twitter under the hashtag #Nola4Ever.
Photo: San Diego Zoo Global