Washington: One of the six remaining northern white rhinos has died of old age at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, bringing the wonderful species one step closer to extinction.
Randy Rieches, the safari park curator, said in a statement that the death of 44-year-old male rhino, named Angalifu, is a tremendous loss to all of them, not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because now just 5 of them remain, the Verge reported.
In addition to Nola, with whom conservationists at the park had hoped that Angalifu would mate, there are three northern white rhinos at a preserve in Kenya and one at a zoo in the Czech Republic.
There were around 2,000 living northern white rhinos as recently as 1960, mostly in southern and central Africa, but poachers soon ravaged the population and so by 1984, there were just 15 remaining.
Since rhino horn is believed to hold healing powers in traditional Asian medicine, high demand for the material has driven up prices on the black market and so, earlier in 2014, officials in South Africa announced that more than 1,000 rhinos were killed in 2013.
Although the outlook may seem grim for the northern white rhino, there is cause for hope as the southern white rhinos, which were considered extinct in the 19th century until a small population was discovered in South Africa, was brought back to life by ensuing conservation efforts.
According to WWF, there are more than 20,000 southern white rhinos alive today.