As if news for rhinos couldn’t get any worse: this weekend, Angalifu, died a the San Diego Zoo. Forty four-year-old Angalifu was a male northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and his death means only five of this subspecies remains on the planet. Angalifu’s death, which keepers suspect was simply from old age, follows soon after the death of another northern white rhino, Suni, in October.
“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” Randy Rieches with the San Diego Zoo said. “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.”
With Angalifu’s death, San Diego Zoo is home to a single northern white rhino, Nola. Another northern white rhino is housed at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, the only zoo that had success in breeding the subspecies. Finally, three northern white rhinos are living in semi-wild conditions in the Ol Pejeta animal sanctuary in Kenya. But experts there have given up on natural reproduction, meaning the fight to save the species has now turned to in vitro fertilization.
Angalifu at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. Photo by: Sheep81/Public Domain.
Northern white rhinos were once found in Uganda, South Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the 1980s, the subspecies almost went extinct due to that a poaching crisis. After the dust settled only 15 were left. For a time it seemed the subspecies might make a comeback, but then rhino poaching came back with a vengeance in the mid-2000s wiping out the last known wild northern white rhinos from Garamba National Park in the DRC.
While current institutions consider the northern white rhino a subspecies of the white rhino—which remains the most populous on the planet—a controversial paper in 2010 argued that the northern white rhino was a species in its own right.
Rhino poaching is currently out of control in Africa. This year has seen a new record for poaching in South Africa—1,020 rhinos as of late November—where the bulk of the criminal activity occurs.
(12/03/2014) Nearing extinction, the Sumatran rhino is running out of options. A native of Indonesia and Malaysia, the Sumatran rhino has declined in the past 30 years from an estimated 800 individuals to no more than 75 remaining today. So far there have been three ad hoc meetings held in 1984, 1993, and 2013, each attempting to develop policies that would potentially save this critical species.
(11/24/2014) South Africa has surpassed last year’s grisly record for slaughtered rhinos—1,004—more than a month before the year ends. In an announcement on November 20th, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said that 1,020 rhinos had been killed to date.
(10/28/2014) Daily, we read or hear of more rhino being poached to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand from Asia for rhino horn. With countless articles and papers having been published on the subject – and the Internet abuzz with forums, including heated debates concerning possible solutions – current approaches seem to be failing. Evidence is in the numbers. Known poaching deaths in South Africa have risen sharply over the past three years: 668 rhinos in 2012, 1,004 last year, and 899 through the first nine months of 2014. This toll includes only documented kills — the real number is higher.
(10/22/2014) A new poll finds that consumer demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has dropped precipitously following several advertising campaigns. According to the poll by the Humane Society International (HIS) and Vietnam CITES, demand has plunged 38 percent since last year.
(10/20/2014) Rhino conservation suffered another tragic setback this weekend with the sudden death of Suni, a male northern white rhinoceros at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Suni’s passing means there are only six northern white rhinos left in the world, and only one breeding male. ‘Consequently the species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race,’ wrote the Conservancy.
(10/06/2014) Late last month, armed guards escorted officials marching 60 kilograms (132 pounds) of rhino horns to a pyre for burning. The event, at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, was the first public burning of rhino horns in Europe. The Czech Republic burned the horns, which came from a government stockpile as well as from past rhinos held at the zoo, in a bid to help conserve rhinos.