Conservationists were heartbroken as one of the last remaining northern white rhinos was euthanized this weekend, leaving just three individuals left on the planet.
It was a somber day for conservationists worldwide; one of the poster species for animal conservation, the northern white rhino, suffered a great blow as one of four remaining individuals died at the San Diego Zoo. According to a report from Scientific American, Nola, a 41-year-old northern white rhino was euthanized after she stopped eating and being active.
Nola had received surgery on November 13 to drain an abscess near her pelvis. Despite the surgery initially being a success, Nola’s condition worsened over the next day. She stopped eating and her activity levels dipped to dangerous levels, and caretakers felt that putting her to sleep was the best option.
There are now just three northern white rhinos left on planet Earth, who live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The last two females are incapable of reproducing naturally. The last remaining male, Sudan, has a dangerously low sperm count. Researchers hope they can carry on the species by performing an in vitro fertilization of one of the females.
The San Diego Zoo is currently in the process of investing $2 million to help preserve the species. They have done a lot of work trying to implant a northern white rhino embryo into a surrogate mother from the closely related southern white rhino. Researchers are hopeful that this method could help carry on the species; the San Diego Zoo has a wide collection of potential genetic material stored in its Frozen Zoo.
It has been years since northern white rhinos went extinct in the wild, largely due to poachers seeking to meet the demand for rhino horns used in traditional Asian medicine. The last remaining wild northern white rhino was killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006.