An aging and much loved northern white rhino died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California. Nola was the last of the sub-species left in captivity and her death, at the age of 41, leaves just three of the critically endangered animals alive anywhere in the world. She had lived at the park since 1989 and had been a big hit with visitors.
However, she had become increasingly ill during the past week and was receiving treatment for a bacterial infection, according to a statement on the zoo's website. She was placed under constant veterinary care as her appetite and activity levels declined.
With her condition deteriorating significantly, vets had to take the agonising decision to put her to sleep. "Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide," the zoo said. "Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts."
Thousands of people posted messages of condolence on social media sites. The three remaining northern white rhinos live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Their numbers have dropped one by one in recent years, and the last remaining male is under 24-hour armed guard.
One of two sub-species of white rhinocerous (so called because of their "wide" mouths), they once ranged through the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan and Uganda but their numbers were drastically reduced by poaching in the 1970s and 1980s. San Diego zoo is working on a programme to use six southern white rhinos - recently arrived from South Africa - as surrogate mothers for northern embryos, a project scientists say may take 15 years.