The last four northern white rhinos in the world are now down to three, as San Diego Zoo Safari Park loses Nola Sunday.

The 41-year-old female northern white rhino, already geriatric, was euthanized by the safari park team after a week of listlessness and a massive pelvic abscess and bacterial infection.

"In the past 24 hours Nola's condition had worsened significantly. Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her," read an official statement from the Safari Park.

Nola’s death leaves the world with only three northern white rhinos, all protected 24/7 from poaching Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

In 1989, Sudan-born Nola arrived at the park in Southern California from a Czech zoo as part of a breeding initiative. The 4,000-pound rhino, the last of her kind held captive in the Western hemisphere, was considered an iconic and well-loved animal at the park and around the world.

"Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts," the zoo said of the dead rhino, which was endeared for her gentleness and affinity for back scratches from the zoo personnel.

The news of Nola’s death came months after Angalifu, a 44-year-old northern white rhino, yielded to cancer at the same park.

It also followed a couple of weeks after the transporting of six southern white rhinos — the northern whites’ close kin and with fewer than about 20,000 remaining in the wild — from South Africa to San Diego in an effort to save them from extinction. Poachers are estimated to kill about three from this breed every day.

It is yet to be known if the southern and northern white rhinos are two separate species or are subspecies of one another. According to zoo spokesperson Christina Simmons, they will determine if the southern whites’ genes are similar enough to maternally surrogate embryos from northern white DNA.

For some good news, a baby red panda was safely brought back to the Sequoia Park Zoo in the far northern coast of California after being lost four days earlier.

The one-year-old panda was spotted walking about half a mile away from the zoo entrance until it was herded up a small tree by a concerned citizen, ready to be lured back to the zoo by staff.

Photo : Make It Kenya | Flickr

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