Rhino Species Down to Last 3, but Hope Remains

Science could bring back the northern white
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2015 3:44 AM CST
Updated Nov 23, 2015 5:33 AM CST
Rhino Species Down to Last 3, But Hope Remains
This 2014, file photo shows Nola, a northern white rhinoceros, in her enclosure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Calif.   (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)

In sad but utterly inevitable news, the northern white rhino has taken another big step toward extinction with the death of Nola, a beloved 41-year-old female who had been at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1989. She was one of the last four remaining members of the doomed species, and the park decided to euthanize her on Sunday because of an infection and other chronic age-related health problems, reports the New York Times. "It's tough. It's like having your 90-year-old aunt get sick, and there is nothing you can do except give her basic care and keep her comfortable," the lead zookeeper told the San Diego Union-Tribune last month. Another female died at a Czech zoo in July, and the final three survivors are all at a conservancy in Kenya.

"Let this be a warning of what is happening to wildlife everywhere," the park wrote in a Facebook post. But hope for the species lives on: The zoo's "frozen" section now has genetic material from at least a dozen northern whites, and scientists hope to bring back the species with embryos that can be carried by southern white rhinos, six of which recently arrived at the park, the Union-Tribune reports. "The white rhinos represent the wild places and prehistoric animals that are still with us," a park curator tells the Union-Tribune. "It is devastating to think that in just a few hundred years, we can wipe that out. That is just wrong, and we need to do something about it." (For now, the only living northern white rhinos are two infertile females and the loneliest guy in the world.)

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