One of the last remaining Northern White Rhinos was found dead on Saturday by Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the CBC reports. Suni was a 34-year-old male, and the first Northern White Rhino to be born in captivity. The species is on the verge of extinction, and of the six animals remaining, only one is a breeding male.
Suni was born in captivity in the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic 34 years ago. He remained there until he was transferred along with three other Northern White Rhinos to Ol Pejeta in 2009. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located approximately 250 kilometers north of Nairobi, has yet to determine the cause of death, but they have confirmed that Suni was not killed by poachers. Deutsche Welle reports that 59 rhinos were poached last year in Kenya.
The Northern White Rhino breeding project at Ol Pejeta is part of the “Last Chance to Survive” program, a joint effort between the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Fauna and Flora International, Back to Africa, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service. ThinkProgress notes that in 2012, Suni entered a courtship ritual with a female Northern White Rhino named Najin, but the mating did not result in a pregnancy.
Currently, of the remaining Northern White Rhinos, one still lives in Dvůr Králové, and an elderly couple lives in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Ol Pejeta currently houses the only remaining breeding male. There are no Northern White Rhinos remaining in the wild.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy released a statement on Suni’s passing, saying, “The species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race. We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf.”