Nola, a 41-year old female white rhino and one of the only four left of her species, was euthanized at the San Diego Safari Park Sunday after her health deteriorated considerably. She had been at the park since 1989, with the three other elderly northern white rhinos residing in the closely guarded Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
The old rhino had arthritis and several other ailments, with the most recent complication being a bacterial infection from an abscess in her hip. Caretakers attempted to drain the abscess through surgery on Nov. 13, but her health took a turn for the worst last week. Her appetite declined steeply and she lost the majority of her energy, with her effects worsening over the past 24 hours, leading to the vets’ decision to euthanize her, said the zoo in a statement.
“Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide,” the statement read.
The subspecies of white rhino has been massacred by poachers over the years, taking a considerable hit to their population thanks to the demand for their horns in parts of Asia. Many claim the horns have medicinal properties and can treat just about anything from hangovers to cancer.
In the pursuit of preserving the species, the San Diego zoo got a hold of six female southern white rhinos from South Africa, the less rare subspecies of white rhino. Zoo researchers are now working on developing northern white rhino embryos so they can be implanted in the new southern rhino surrogate mothers within the next 10 to 15 years.
Northern white rhinos are believed to be extinct in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund, while the southern subspecies is listed as “near threatened” even though its population continues to grow in sanctuaries. Researchers have tried cross breeding the subspecies before, most notably in 2014 when the Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced they had introduced a fertile southern white rhino from the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to an enclosure with two female northern rhinos, hoping that competition between the two females will increase the chances of inter-breeding. However, as of now, the conservancy has not announced any news of the rhinos mating.
The Zoo tweeted about the death of Nola on Sunday, saying they were “devastated by the loss.”
— San Diego Zoo (@sandiegozoo) November 22, 2015
Let’s hope we don’t lose these majestic creatures.