Northern white rhino dies at San Diego Zoo Safari Park to leave just five left in the world

Angalifu was one of the only two remaining males in the species of rhinoceros

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The Independent Online

One of the six remaining northern white rhinos in the world has died yesterday to bring the species a step closer to extinction.

The male at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park named Angalifu, who was about 44 years old and was transferred from a zoo in Sudan in the late 1980s, is believed to have died of ailments relating to old age and had been refusing to eat food for several days.

His death leaves only one northern white rhino at the zoo, a female named Nola who is believed to be infertile, another female called Nabire at a zoo in the Czech Republic and three — one male and two females — in a wildlife conservancy in Kenya.

“Angalifu's death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” said safari park curator Randy Rieches 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.”

 

The northern white rhino has a life expectancy of up to 50 years, but poaching has seriously threatened the species as their horns are made into objects such as expensive dagger handles and are mistakenly believed to be an aphrodisiac in alternative medicine.

Just last week, conservationists at the Old Pejeta sanctuary in Kenya said that their one male and two female northern white rhinos will not be able to reproduce naturally.

The three were flown from the Czech zoo to the Kenyan site in December 2009 in hopes the natural environment away from captivity could assist them in breeding.

A 34-year-old male northern white rhino called Suni died in an enclosure in Kenya in October, reportedly of natural causes.

Efforts will now be made to keep the species alive through in-vitro fertilisation. However, as the remaining male capable of breeding is a southern white rhino, it could be years before a breeding experiment between two northern white rhinos is successful.

Southern white rhinos almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century, plunging down to only 20 at one point. Decades of conservation gradually brought them back to a safe number.

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