Nola, a northern white rhinoceros, stands in the pond of the Africa plains exhibit this morning at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This female is just one of six remaining northern white rhinos on earth. Last weekend staff at the Safari Park learned that Suni, a 34-year-old northern white rhino at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, had died. While the cause of death hasn’t been determined, it is not believed to be an incident of poaching. This death adds another challenge in the fight to prevent this critically endangered species from going extinct.
Three northern white rhinos remain in the care of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, one lives at Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic and two are in the African plains exhibit at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Nola (pictured) and a male named Angalifu.
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The loss of one animal in a species so rare can have a significant impact on the ability to save it from extinction. Despite this challenge, the animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and researchers and scientists at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research remain hopeful and continue to work towards saving the northern white rhino through ongoing research of the reproductive system of this species, collecting and saving genetic material from animals who have died and looking into alternate breeding methods for this species.
While northern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were never able to successfully breed, this was most likely due to their age when they arrived at the facility. However, the Safari Park still has the most successful captive breeding program for rhinoceroses in the world. There have been 92 southern white rhinos, 66 greater one-horned rhinos, and 13 black rhinos born at the Safari Park since it opened 42 years ago.
Guests at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park can see the two northern white rhino when they take the African Tram Safari, which is included with admission to the Park.