On Sunday, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park reported that their male Northern White Rhinoceros, Angalifu, had died. With his passing, there remains only five Northern White Rhinos left in the world.
Angalifu was 44-years-old at the time of his death, which the Safari Park has initially ascribed to natural causes. “Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,” safari park curator Randy Rieches said in a statement. “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.”
No Northern White Rhino remains in the wild. After being hunted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the species has been whittled down to a single rhino in the Czech Republic’s Dvůr Králové Zoo, three in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and an elderly female in San Diego, Nola. Attempts to mate Nola and Angalifu were unsuccessful during Angalifu’s lifetime.
Angalifu is the second Northern White Rhino to die this year. Suni, a 34-year-old male living in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, was found dead in October.
The Guardian reports that efforts to preserve the species could use female Southern White Rhinoceri as surrogate mothers. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy contains the last breeding male left on the planet, Sudan, whose sperm could be used for in vitro fertilization. Last week, officials from the Conservancy admitted that efforts to naturally breed Sudan have thus far resulted in failure.
Rhino horns, despite being made almost completely of keratin, have long been valued for their mythical medicinal properties. In some areas, the horn can be more valuable than gold, and has led poachers to slaughter rhinos at alarming rates. According to WildAid, 95 percent of the world’s rhinos have been killed by poachers in the last 40 years.
Southern White Rhinos were also hunted to near extinction by the end of the 1800s, though their numbers never fell below 20.