Sunday was a sad day for conservationists, animal lovers, and just about anyone with a heart, when one of the world’s last four remaining northern white rhinos died in a zoo in the United States.
Nola, a 41-year-old female, underwent surgery on November 13 to drain a hip abscess. However, her health deteriorated badly and it was decided she should be put down to end her suffering. Nola was a popular attraction at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park having lived there since 1989.
— San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) November 22, 2015
The remaining three northern white rhinos – all elderly – are kept closely guarded at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The northern white rhino population, native to East and Central Africa was destroyed by poachers who hunted them for their prized horns, and was declared extinct in the wild in 2008.
However San Diego zoo has recently brought in six southern white rhinos, a close relative, hoping to use them as surrogate mothers for northern white rhino embryos. There are roughly 20,000 southern white rhinos in the world, but experts are still unsure whether the two species are genetically similar enough for the surrogacy to work.
Zoo researchers say that, if successful, the programme could see a northern white rhino calf born within 10 to 15 years. Let’s hope so, maybe they should call the first one Nola.