A 44-year-old Northern White Rhino died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo safari park. His death means there are only five of the species left in the world. Known as Angalifu, the rhino came to the park from Sudan in 1990. “Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” safari park curator Randy Rieches said in a statement. “Not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction.”
There is now only one Northern White Rhino left in the San Diego Zoo, a female named Nola. Another lives at a zoo in the Czech Republic and there are three left in a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. The Northern White Rhino, which is genetically different than the Southern White Rhino, was prized for its horns and had been the trophy of poachers for years. Poachers in Africa are now using military style helicopters and night vision equipment as they hunt the remaining species of rhinos, leaving conservationists and rangers to try to keep up. Despite international efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade, rhino horns are now more lucrative than drugs and are in high demand in East Asia, where many people believe the horns can cure a host of maladies. White Rhino horn can fetch tens of thousands of dollars in some countries.
The Northern White Rhino is the same in color as the Black Rhino, but is a distinct species. “How the white rhino came to be called “white” is uncertain,” according to the San Diego Zoo website. “One account says that South Africa’s early Boer settlers called it wijde, Dutch for “wide,” which could refer to the wide lip or the size of the animal. The wide mouth of the White Rhino is perfect for grazing on grasses, while the more narrow, prehensile lip of the Black Rhino is great for pulling leaves and shrubs into its mouth.”
According to the Guardian, efforts will now be made to continue the species using in vitro fertilization. Sadly, Angalifu and Nola were unable to reproduce and the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya has said that their White Rhinos also cannot reproduce naturally. Until recently, Southern White Rhinos were on the verge of extinction as well; however, conservation efforts were successful in bringing their numbers back.
Photos by Krissie Ducker/Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy