The entire Northern White Rhinoceros population in the whole world can be counted with just one hand. That's right. Only five individual white rhinos remain before the entire species becomes extinct.
The number of white rhinos dropped from six after the death of Angalifu, a 44-year-old rhino who lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Sunday. He died of old age and with his passing, struck a serious blow to the hearts of his keepers, as well as to possible efforts to save the species before it is completely lost the like Western Black Rhino, which was officially declared extinct in November 2013.
Randy Rieches, the safari park curator, said that the old rhino's death affects everyone.
"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," he said.
The only remaining white rhinos left are Nola, a female whom keepers unsuccessfully tried to mate with Angalifu, another rhino in a zoo in the Czech Republic, and three at a reserve in Kenya.
Efforts are now underway to try to save the species through experimental in-vitro fertilization using a Southern White Rhino as a surrogate mother.
The Northern White Rhino species differs from their Southern cousins genetically, as well as where they are found in the wild. The Southern white rhinos experienced the same population decline due to poaching and encroachment on their territory as all rhinos all over the world. Howver, through careful conservation and repopulation efforts, the species was able to avert extinction.
The Northern White Rhinos, however, are much closer to extinction and conservation efforts are looking bleak.
Due to the use of rhino horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as well as for use as knives in the Middle East, rhinos were hunted and poached mercilessly.
The three remaining animals live on the Garamba National Park where they are protected by rangers who risk their lives to make sure that poachers do not get the last remaining Northern White Rhinos in the wild.