One of only six northern white rhinos died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The rhino was approximately 44 years old and dies of old age, according to zoo officials. The death of the rhino leaves just one female at the zoo; mating attempts between the two rhinos were unsuccessful.
Aside from the female at the San Diego Zoo, one of these rhinos is at a zoo in the Czech Republic and the remaining three at a Kenyan preserve. Last week preservationists at the Old Pejeta animal sanctuary concluded that the one male and two females at the preserve would not reproduce naturally. Attempts at in vitro fertilization are being made.
An experiment could occur using a southern white rhinoceros as a surrogate mother. The southern white rhino came close to extinction by the end of the 19th century. Although numbers reached 20 of these rhinos at one point, decades of conservation efforts raised numbers slowly.
What brings these animals close to extinction is poaching. It is believed that rhino horns serve as an aphrodisiac, this however is false. The horns are also used to make the handles for daggers. The horns sell for tens of thousands of dollars, the demand primarily driven by East Asia.