Northern white rhino’s death leaves just five in the world


  • Lifestyle
  • Monday, 29 Dec 2014

Rare rhinoceros dies in San Diego Zoo safari park, bringing species one step closer to extinction.

WITH the death at San Diego Zoo Safari Park of a northern white rhino earlier this month, the species is five animals away from extinction.

The death of Angalifu, a 44-year-old male northern white rhino, leaves an elderly female at the park, three in a Kenyan preserve and one at a Czech Republic zoo.

There were more than 2,000 northern whites in 1960, according to the World Wildlife Fund, but poachers obliterated the population.

By 1984, there were about 15 of the rhinos left. That population was doubled by 1993 through aggressive conservation efforts. But heavily armed poaching gangs have now virtually annihilated the species, the WWF says.

Poachers are known to use helicopters, guns with silencers and night-vision equipment to harvest rhinos’ horns, which are in huge demand in Asia and sell for as much as US$30,000 (RM102,000) a pound (450g).

And the penalties are not nearly as severe as for selling drugs. It’s a deadly formula for the rhinos.

The white rhino – which has southern and northern subspecies – is the largest of all the rhino species and ranks as the second-largest mammal on land, after the African elephant, according to the WWF. The white rhino can reach 2m in height at the shoulder, with females weighing about 1,575kg and males, nearly 3,600kg.

Conservation efforts with southern white rhinos have been succeeding.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park boasts the most successful captive breeding programme for rhinos anywhere on the globe. But the programme for the northern white rhino hasn’t been so successful. In that, the zoo is not alone.

San Diego was unable to breed Angalifu and Nola, the female northern white rhino in San Diego.

Efforts at breeding rhinos at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya also have failed. Angalifu died of ailments related to old age, according to the safari park, and had been in decline, not eating for days. – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service

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