With a depressing inevitability, the countdown to extinction for the northern white rhino continues. Nola, a 41 year old female living at San Diego Zoo, has been put down, after unsuccessful treatment for a bacterial infection. She was also suffering from arthritis and other age-related issues.
This leaves only three of the sub-species remaining, one bull and two cows, all under heavy guard at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in northern Kenya. Veterinary checks have concluded that the two females, Fatu and Najin, are incapable of natural reproduction, and Sudan, the elderly bull has a low sperm count. In vitro fertilisation now appears to be the only remote chance of preserving anything of the northern white rhino gene pool at Ol Pejeta. It’s been reported that San Diego Zoo may implant northern white rhino embryos in some of its resident southern white rhino, in the hope of continuing the line.
It’s only three years since we visited Sudan, Fatu, Najin, and Suni at Ol Pejeta, and at that time there were seven northern white rhino left on Earth: four in Ol Pejeta, one in a Czech zoo, and two in San Diego Zoo. Suni died of natural causes last year, as did Angalifu, a male rhino in San Diego Zoo. Nabiré died in the Czech zoo in July of this year.
Will there be any northern white rhino left in another three years? It’s hard to be optimistic.