Rare Northern White Rhino Dies, Leaving Only 3 in the World

Last updated: June 24, 2016

A sad realization for rhinos

Beloved Nabire, a 31-year old northern white rhino housed at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic died on July 27, 2015 due to a ruptured cyst.

Nabire was one of only 5 northern white rhinos remaining in the world.

Rhinos have been on the brink of extinction due to poaching for their horn, and habitat loss.

Update: On November 22, 2015 Nola, a northern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park died. Leaving only 3 left in the world. San Diego Zoo has been a leader in research and conservation for many species including California Condors and Great Pandas.

Now, there are 3 living at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya – one 42-year old male named Sudan, and two females -Fatu and Najin. A third female, Nola, living at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Sudan is living under constant guard to protect him from any potential threats. His horn has even been cut off to make him less of a target to poachers.

Sudan – the last male northern white rhino

Hope for northern white rhinos

Since 1999, there have been repeated attempts to get these rhinos to breed. There have been records of mating between the rhinos, but no conceptions.

All remaining northern white rhinos are mature adults, all past the prime reproductive age.

The dead rhino’s potentially healthy ovary and other tissue has been taken to an Italian laboratory, where her eggs may be harvested for future in vitro fertilization, the zoo said.

In fact, over the years, healthy cells and reproductive organs from more than a dozen northern white rhinos, have been collected in hopes of using these cryopreserved cells to bring back the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction.

If this were to succeed, the remaining northern white rhinos or their more populous cousins, the southern white rhinos, would be their surrogate mothers.

“It is our moral obligation to try to save them,” zoo director Přemysl Rabas said in a statement. “We are the only ones, perhaps with San Diego Zoo, who have enough of collected biological material to do so.”

There are 5 species of rhinos – Javan rhino, Sumatran rhino,Greater one-horned rhino Black rhino, and White rhino.

Two species of rhino in Asia—Javan and Sumatran—are Critically Endangered. The third Asian rhino species, the Greater one-horned rhino is listed as Vulnerable.

Javan rhinos


A Sumatran rhino

In Africa, the Black rhino, Africa, is Critically Endangered. The southern white rhino was once also on the brink of extinction with only 50 individuals left, now there are over 20,000. Sadly, now only 3 northern white rhinos are left.

Northern white rhinos are a sub-species of the White rhino.

What you can do to help

1 – Support Ol Pejeta Conservancy’s fundraising campaign to offset costs to equip the rangers. Protecting these rhinos can be dangerous. Poaching attempts in the area are not infrequent and the rangers are the main line of defense between poacher and rhino. Keeping the ranger team safe is expensive. They are given world-class training, and are kitted out with the latest in equipment and support, from night vision goggles to GPS tracking, to a team of tracking and support dogs.

2 – Support San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Global in their research to bring the species back from the brink of extinction through innovative genetic technologies. You can support San Diego Zoo through End Extinction, wildlife adoption, donation, or visiting the Zoo or Safari Park.

Update: San Diego Zoo Global Conservancy has made a major breakthrough in the progress of rhino reproduction.  Recently, rhinos hadn’t been having as many babies as they normally do. After research they realized that their food, soy and alfalfa, which even though they’re delicious, are high in plant estrogens. And just like in humans, eating too much estrogen is not always a good thing.

So they analyzed our rhinos’ favorite foods and we switched up their salads! They started feeding them a special mixture of grasses that was just as tasty, but much lower in estrogens—and their research has paid off! Their rhinos are having babies and grand babies again, and it is quite a treat to see one of new residents frolicking around the park.

Why is this important? San Diego Zoo Global plans to have six southern white rhino surrogate mothers to birth and raise new northern white rhinos. They are getting the girls ready for ultrasounds and routine checkups. They’re learning everything they need to be good moms—and they love eating their new salads!

Next up, Saving the Northern White Rhino.

Donate here.

3 – Purchase Vanishing Wildlife carded porcelain figurines. The Vanishing Wildlife series by Little Critterz is represented by baby animals as they hold the “Future, Promise and Hope” for their species. Your purchase of these figurines helps to support The Multinational Species Fund to protect the earth’s most endangered species including elephants, tigers, rhinos, apes and sea turtles.


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3 Responses to Rare Northern White Rhino Dies, Leaving Only 3 in the World

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