A rare, northern white rhino died Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Calif. Angalifu died of old age, and following his death, there are just five northern white rhinos left in the world, all in captivity.
“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us, 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,” safari park curator Randy Rieches told the AP in a statement.
The San Diego Zoo has one remaining northern white rhino, an elderly female named Nola. Despite hopes for conservationists, Angalifu and Nola were unable to produce offspring, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In addition to Nola at the San Diego Zoo, the world’s only remaining northern white rhinos include:
- Sudan, a male living in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He’s now the last male of his species.
- Najin and Fatu, two females living in the Kenya preserve with Sudan.
- An elderly female rhino at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.
The critically endangered species has likely lost its last chance for natural reproduction. In October, a male named Suni – the first of his kind ever born in captivity – died of unknown causes in Kenya, where he was part of the breeding program with Sudan, Najin, and Fatu. At the time, the Dvur Kralove zoo said Suni was “probably the last male capable of breeding.”
Last week, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy said publicly for the first time that the breeding experiment failed. Which means the last hope for the northern white rhino species now “likely lies in artificial reproductive techniques,” the AP reported. The San Diego Zoo has preserved some of Angalifu’s testicular tissue and sperm for future attempts to artificially breed new white rhinos, as the Times reported. If science can’t help, the species may ultimately become extinct.