News Article | November 25, 2015
Whalers fined An Australian court fined a Japanese company Aus$1 million (US$724,000) on 18 November and found the firm to be in contempt of court for killing minke whales in an area declared a sanctuary by Australia. According to the animal-protection organization Humane Society International (HSI), which, along with the Environmental Defender’s Office, brought the case against the firm Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha, this is one of the largest fines issued under Australian conservation law. The company caught whales in four different years, despite a 2008 injunction against the practice, says the HSI. Climate repeals The US Senate voted on 17 November to repeal a pair of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency that would limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants. Votes on both rules were led by Republicans and passed by a margin of 52–46; the House of Representatives is considering similar resolutions. Coming just two weeks before the United Nations climate summit in Paris, the resolutions are largely symbolic. US President Barack Obama promised to veto both repeals, and supporters do not have the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. Tasmanian devils returned to the wild Tasmania has 39 more wild devils, after the latest batch of healthy individuals was released from the Devils Ark Santuary (pictured is manager Dean Reid) onto the Forestier Peninsula on 18 November. The area was cleared of Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) after an infectious cancer that is devastating populations of the endangered animals was detected there in 2004. A ‘devil-proof fence’ has now been installed to prevent the new, healthy population from mixing with animals afflicted with the deadly and infectious devil facial tumour disease. Statoil Arctic exit Norwegian energy company Statoil announced on 17 November that it would cease exploration for gas and oil in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. The decision comes just over a month after Royal Dutch Shell suspended its own exploration off the Alaskan coast, citing regulatory uncertainty and a disappointing survey of the area’s fossil-fuel prospects. The Statoil decision sees the company exit early from 16 leases that were set to expire in 2020. L’Aquila verdict Italy’s highest court of appeal on 20 November upheld a decision to acquit 6 seismologists accused of manslaughter in regard to the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, which killed more than 300 people. Prosecutors claimed that the scientists misled townspeople about the risk, leading them to stay in their homes instead of seeking safety. The scientists were originally given six-year prison sentences, but an appeals court in L’Aquila acquitted them last November, and reduced to two years the sentence of Bernardo De Bernardinis, former deputy director of the Italian Civil Protection Department, who was also convicted. De Bernardinis’s reduced sentence was upheld; he still faces a separate charge of manslaughter. Ebola setback In a setback to efforts to end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the World Health Organization announced three new cases of the disease in Liberia on 20 November. One of those individuals, a 15-year-old boy, died on 23 November. The country had been declared Ebola-free on 3 September. Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free on 7 November, and the last case in Guinea was reported on 29 October, leading to hopes that the epidemic, which began in December 2013, might finally be nearing an end. Pandemic report A panel of physicians, scientists and policy experts has called for major reforms to the World Health Organization and other international health-response systems following the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 11,000 people. The panel, convened by Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, released its report on 22 November (S. Moon et. al. Lancet http://doi.org/9gf; 2015). It also recommends measures to improve prevention, detection and response to outbreaks, and to speed research on diseases that cause them. See go.nature.com/jxxvs6 for more. Rare rhino dies Northern white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) are one step closer to extinction, after a 41-year-old female named Nola had to be put down after surgery at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California on 22 November. The last three remaining individuals — two females that cannot reproduce naturally and a male with a low sperm count — live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Conservationists hope that the species can be saved through assisted reproduction techniques, using southern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum simum) as surrogates. CRISPR cress The Swedish Board of Agriculture on 17 November told two Swedish universities that they do not need special approval for field trials of some cress (Arabidopsis, pictured) varieties mutated by the CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing technique. In June, the European Commission had asked European Union member states to hold back on such rulings until it makes its own proposals on how to regulate organisms modified by new genetic techniques. But the Swedish authority said decisions needed to be made now, so that trials can be prepared for the next growing season. Chimps retired The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is ceasing its chimpanzee-research programme altogether, two years after retiring most of its chimps. In a 16 November e-mail to the agency’s administrators, NIH director Francis Collins announced that the 50 NIH-owned animals that remain available for research will be sent to sanctuaries. The agency will also develop a plan to phase out NIH support for the remaining chimps that are supported, but not owned, by the NIH. See page 422 for more. Coal curbs The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development agreed on 18 November to restrict public financing for coal-fired power plants. Two years in the making, the agreement removes support for large, low-efficiency coal-fired plants while maintaining support for medium-sized, high-efficiency plants in countries facing energy shortages, and for small, less-efficient plants in the poorest countries. The restrictions will not apply to any coal-fired plants that are equipped to capture and store carbon emissions. UK research review A tensely awaited report into the future of the major UK research-funding agencies, released on 19 November, suggests the creation of a powerful umbrella organization called Research UK to manage the agencies. The review was led by Nobel-prizewinning geneticist Paul Nurse. Many scientists feared that it would recommend a total merger of the research councils, which collectively distribute some £3 billion (US$4.6 billion) of government research funding each year. Nurse recommends that Research UK be led by an experienced researcher, who would in effect be boss of the heads of the seven discipline-based councils. See go.nature.com/2rwzeu for more. Mega-merger Two major pharmaceutical firms are to merge in a US$160-billion deal, they announced on 23 November. Pfizer of New York will combine with Allergan, based in Dublin, in a merger that is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. The resulting firm will be named Pfizer but will be headquartered in Dublin — providing a significant tax break for the US firm — and will have more than 100 medicines in mid-to-late-stage development. The availability of antiretroviral drugs for HIV has increased women’s lifespans more than men’s in KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, concludes a study of more than 98,000 people (J. Bor et al. PLoS Med. 12, e1001905; 2015). Since free antiretroviral treatment became available in South Africa in 2004, declines in life expectancy have reversed for both genders. But progress is uneven, with women gaining more years of life than men. The authors recommend that HIV outreach activities be targeted to men. 30 November The leaders of the world’s nations gather to broker a climate deal at the United Nations’ Paris Climate Change Conference. nature.com/parisclimate 2 December The European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder satellite, which will hunt for gravitational waves, launches from Kourou, French Guiana. go.nature.com/rxrzuc
News Article | November 25, 2015
Scientists hope to create the first test tube rhinoceros, one of the most endangered species on Earth, to prevent its imminent extinction. The northern white rhino's total population worldwide is down to just three. Sudan, a male northern white rhino, is believed to be the sole male survivor of this species. Poachers are seen as culprits in the marked reduction of white rhino's population. Their ivory horns were sold for big money in Asia. Due to its old age, Sudan cannot mate with the two other female rhinos in Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy in northern Kenya. Fortunately, he is not too old as scientists found that he can still reproduce. A third female white rhino in San Diego zoo, Nola, died at 41 years old, bringing to number of species around the world to just three. In 1960, there were still 2,000 rhinos remaining in southern Chad, Central Africa, south western Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and northwestern Uganda. However, constant poaching for their ivory horns led to their extinction in the wild since 2008. Rhino's ivory horns are in demand in Asian countries like Vietnam. Aside from using it for medicinal properties, it reflects a symbol of wealth for upper-middle class citizens in Vietnam. In an effort to protect Sudan, he is under a 24-hour watch by armed rangers in the conservatory. Sudan's ivory horn was removed to prevent poachers from killing it. "The only reason his horn has been cut off is to deter poachers. If the rhino has no horn, he is of no interest to poachers," said Elodie Sampere, marketing manager of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Northern rhinos are easy targets for hunters and poachers because they are less aggressive and occur in herds. Zoo authorities are looking into developing reproductive techniques where preserved genetic material will be used to create embryos. These will be implanted to six southern white rhinos that will act as surrogates with hopes that they are genetically similar enough to bear baby rhinos. A crowd-funding initiative was established to raise $750,000 to support the rhino in-vitro fertilization project. "As humans, we have a duty to try because we are the ones who brought these animals to the point of extinction in the first place," Richard Vigne, who runs the Ol Pejeta wildlife residency, said.
News Article | May 14, 2016
Under the watchful eyes of a group of heavily armed guards, three rhinos graze on the grassland of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Most of the world knows that the rhinoceros is threatened, but the status of these animals is in another league. They are the planet’s last three northern white rhinos. None is capable of breeding. The northern white, which once roamed Africa in its thousands, is in effect extinct. The three – named Sudan, Najin and Fatu – are the last of their kind. In a few months, however, a group of scientists from the US, Germany, Italy and Japan will attempt the seemingly impossible: to rescue the northern white rhino – smaller and hairier than its southern cousin – from the jaws of extinction. In October, they plan to remove the last eggs from the two female northern whites and by using advanced reproductive techniques, including stem cell technology and IVF, create embryos that could be carried to term by surrogate rhino mothers. The northern white could then be restored to its former glory. The procedure would be a world first. It is an audacious plan – and a controversial one. Many conservation experts believe the resources being used to create northern white embryos would be better spent on saving other rhino species by providing them with protection in the wild. Why try to restore the species if the cause of its extinction has still not been tackled, they ask. Others say that taking a hi-tech approach to species preservation could lull the conservation movement into thinking it would always be able to fall back on science to help reproduce a species once it gets into trouble. These points are rejected by project scientists. “Unless we act now, the northern white rhino will go extinct. And don’t forget that, once we have developed IVF and stem cell technologies to save it, we will then be able to use them to rescue other threatened species,” said one of the project’s leading scientists, Professor Thomas Hildebrandt, of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin. “For example, there are only three or four rhinoceros from Borneo left in captivity and none known in the wild,” said Hildebrandt. “We could use this technology to rescue them.” Other creatures that might benefit from this technology include the kouprey, an ox-like creature from Cambodia, and the buffalo-like anoa, from Sulawesi. Both are also critically endangered, he said. The northern white rhino once ranged over areas of Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Around 2,000 survived in the wild in 1960. But the growing use of rhino horn as a traditional medicine in China, and more recently as a luxury cure for hangovers and other ailments in Vietnam, triggered a widespread growth in poaching, bringing about a sharp decline in numbers of all rhinos. (There are five rhino species: Indian, Javan, Sumatran, the black rhino and the white rhino, of which there are two subspecies, northern and southern.) By the 1980s the northern white had reached critically endangered status, and despite conservationists’ best efforts numbers continued to decline. “We put millions of dollars into protecting the northern white rhino in Garamba national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Susie Ellis of the International Rhino Foundation. “However, the species was lost there when the park became a conflict zone and we had to pull out to ensure the safety of our staff. If there is no political will, there is only so much that organisations like ours can do.” By 2010 no northern whites were known to exist in the wild, while fewer than a dozen survived in zoos. By 2015 that number had shrunk to four and then, in November, with the death of San Diego zoo’s Nola, there was only Sudan, Najin and Fatu. All three are thought to be incapable of breeding. Nevertheless the consortium’s scientists still hope to be able to create viable northern white rhino embryos. First Najin and Fatu, the two surviving females, will be treated with hormones and then their eggs will be extracted. These will be fertilised using sperm from northern white rhino males currently kept in frozen stores. The embryos will be implanted in surrogate mothers selected from southern white rhinos. There are more than 20,000 southern whites in Africa, mostly in South Africa. The embryos will then be allowed to gestate in their southern surrogate mothers. In this way it should be possible to bring the northern white rhino back from extinction, scientists argue. It will not be easy. Ellis said: “No one has ever successfully used IVF on any rhino species. IVF requires specific conditions to mimic the uterine environment, and it will take a lot of time and enormous funding to perfect the methodology.” In addition, one of the two females at Ol Pejeta is quite elderly and the other is known to have uterine problems. These issues could affect the project’s progress, as another of its leading scientists, Professor Cesare Galli, of Bologna University, acknowledged. “It is not an easy task getting eggs from female rhinos, and we may find we simply do not have enough viable eggs to create embryos in the numbers we want. If that turns out to be the case, we will have to take a different approach.” In this scenario, scientists would take cells from frozen rhino tissue and then reprogramme these into stem cells that could then be turned into sperm and eggs. Northern white rhino embryos could then be created from these. Effectively the species would be resurrected by taking skin cells from dead animals in order to create fully viable embryos. It will be an incredibly tricky procedure. Scientists have created stem cells – known as induced pluripotent stem cells – from rhino skin cells. However, they have not taken the final step and turned them into sperm and eggs, and no one knows how difficult that might be. Nevertheless the group is confident. “I am sure we will learn how to do this in the end,” said Hildebrandt. It will be a considerable effort and, as the critics are pointing out, mightily expensive. It is estimated that San Diego zoo has already had to raise around $2m to fund its involvement in the project. For his part, Hildebrandt told the Observer that the budget for his Leibniz Institute group’s involvement was only €100,000. Such investment makes many rhino conservation workers uneasy. Richard Emslie, a rhinoceros expert with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said funding for other projects, including those that involve fieldwork, could be hit. “The idea that hi-tech saves species may detract from support for basics such as law enforcement, biological management and monitoring on the ground,” he said. “Field conservation efforts by people in green and khaki, and not just boffins in white coats, need our support.” However, funding advanced reproductive research as opposed to field conservation is not necessarily an either/or choice, said Hildebrandt. “Financial backing for these two very different approaches to rhino conservation tends to come from very different sources. So our work shouldn’t affect backing for field or conservation work in any way. More to the point, it will open up the technology of using stem cell science so we can save and protect other endangered species.” Other conservationists fear the spectacular nature of the work proposed by the international group could lull them into thinking science will always be able to save the day. “This says that we can let species go to the very brink of extinction and modern technology can bring them back,” Stuart Pimm, a conservation biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told the journal Nature. “There is a very substantial moral hazard in that.” However, Ellis – although acknowledging the difficulties facing the project’s scientists – accepted that perfecting the methods for saving the northern white could help other species, in particular the Sumatran and Javan rhinos, which are also suffering precipitous declines in numbers. “We need to take a multifaceted approach to this challenge, and hi-tech science is certainly one of them,” she said. “In fact, there is no easy answer regarding the northern white rhino. It is now functionally extinct. The best lesson we can learn from that is to never let that happen again with any other species.” The world’s last three northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) used to live at Dvůr Králové zoo in the Czech Republic, but in 2009 were moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they are kept under constant armed guard. The three rhinos are: ■ Sudan, who is thought to be 42 years old. He was caught in South Sudan and is the planet’s last male. He suffers from low sperm count. ■ Najin, the 26-year-old daughter of Sudan. She has leg injuries, which means that she can no longer bear the weight of pregnancy or that of a mounting male. ■ Fatu, the daughter of Najin and grand-daughter of Sudan. She has a uterine disorder that prevents an embryo from being successfully implanted. Cells and sperm from a further 11 northern white rhinos are also being kept in frozen storage.
News Article | December 24, 2015
The northern white rhino Nabiré, a 32-year-old female at the Dv?r Králové Zoo, died on July 27, 2015. Today, there are only three rhinos of this subspecies left. More With only three northern white rhinoceroses left on Earth, conservationists are giving up on traditional breeding efforts and turning to cutting-edge science to save this subspecies. At a meeting in Vienna from Dec. 3 to Dec. 6, researchers developed a plan to use stem cells to create fertilized rhino embryos, which will be carried by surrogate southern white rhino females. This past year has been a sad one for northern white rhinos, a rapidly disappearing subspecies destroyed by habitat loss and poaching. There were six northern whites on the planet, all in captivity, in December 2014. That month, the second-to-last male, Angalifu, died at the San Diego Zoo. That left Sudan, a 42-year-old rhino at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, as the only northern white male rhino on Earth. [In Photos: The Last Surviving Northern White Rhinos] Next to go was 31-year-old Nabiré, a female who died of a ruptured cyst at the Dv?r Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic in July. An infection claimed Nola, a 41-year-old female at the San Diego Zoo, in November. Now the only three remaining northern whites live at the Ol Pejeta reserve. Sudan still survives, but is too old to mount a female. And the two remaining females, Najin and Fatu, also have health problems that prevent them from reproducing the old-fashioned way. So scientists plan to collect egg and sperm cells from the last living northern whites and combine them with induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). These are cells taken from the rhino's body and chemically induced to turn back the clock to an earlier developmental phase, when cells are capable of becoming many different types of body tissue. The hope is that scientists can reverse-engineer body cells into sperm and egg cells. Fertilized embryos could then be made by in vitro fertilization (IVF) and transferred into southern white rhinoceroses, the northern white's nearest relative. But there are complications to this plan: No one has ever successfully completed IVF on a rhino of any species. Every species requires its own cell-culture conditions to mimic the unique environment of the uterus, Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, told Live Science in June. Depending on how long it takes to make the breakthroughs necessary to create rhino embryos in a lab, the species could go extinct before scientists successfully breed new individuals. One of the researchers at the Vienna meeting was Katsuhiko Hayashi, a scientist at Kyushu University, who successfully bred mice from eggs created from mouse skin cells in 2012. Researchers are now working to transfer this technology from mice to northern whites, according to a statement from the Dv?r Králové Zoo. The Czech zoo is working with San Diego Zoo Global, Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Austria and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin to lead the project. A white paper on the group's progress is expected next year. Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science. Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
News Article | November 24, 2015
One of the four northern white rhinoceros left on Earth died yesterday (Nov. 22), leaving only three surviving members of the critically endangered species. Nola, a 41-year-old female rhino, lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1989. In recent weeks, Nola suffered from a bacterial infection, and on Nov. 13, the aging animal underwent surgery to drain a large abscess in her pelvic region, which veterinarians finally identified as the source of her sickness. Though the procedure was successful in reducing the infection, Nola's condition grew worse, leaving her without an appetite and unable to move around, according to zoo officials. When intensified treatment efforts were unsuccessful, the animal's caretakers chose to euthanize her yesterday, in what was a "difficult decision," according to a statement released by the San Diego Zoo. [In Photos: The Last Surviving Northern White Rhinos] Nola follows in the footsteps of Nabiré, a 31-year-old female northern white rhino that died of a ruptured cyst in July at the Dv?r Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic. The deaths of these two critically endangered animals mean that just three northern white rhinos remain in the world. Habitat loss and poaching have kept the northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) on the brink of extinction for years. The three remaining members of the species reside in captivity at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they were transferred after living at a zoo in the Czech Republic. The four remaining northern white rhinos that roamed the wild of the Democratic Republic of Congo as recently as 2007 are now presumed dead, which means there are no known members of the species still living in the wild, according to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Of the three endangered rhinos that remain, two are female and one is male. But at 42 years old, the last northern white rhino male, named Sudan, is too old to mount a female, and his sperm quality is poor, researchers from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research told Live Science in June. The remaining female members of the species, Najin and Fatu, are also unable to reproduce. Najin's age and health problems prevent her from mating, according to Ol Pejeta CEO Richard Vigne. And Fatu, who has never bred, has uterine problems that may prevent her from ever becoming pregnant. However, veterinarians are developing in vitro fertilization (IVF) methods that could one day be used to create northern white rhino embryos. Researchers are attempting to harvest eggs from the remaining female members of the species, as well as sperm from the remaining male. The embryos that may be produced using these sex cells could one day be carried by southern white rhinos, which are close relatives of the northern white rhinos. Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
News Article | November 22, 2015
The extinction of the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) draws ever closer. Nola, a 41-year-old female that has lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park since 1989, was euthanized this morning after she stopped eating and her activity levels dropped. Nola had undergone surgery on Nov. 13 to drain an infected abscess within her pelvic region. The surgery was successful, but the zoo reports that Nola’s condition worsened over the past 24 hours. With Nola’s death, there are now only three northern white rhinos left on the planet, all of which live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The two remaining female rhinos are incapable of natural reproduction. The last surviving male, Sudan, has a very low sperm count but the conservancy still has hopes for in vitro fertilization. San Diego Zoo recently set aside $2 million as part of an effort to keep the species from going extinct by implanting northern white rhino embryos into surrogates from the related southern white rhino subspecies (C. s. simum). That plan may still come to fruition, as the zoo has a collection of suitable genetic material in its Frozen Zoo. Northern white rhinos went extinct in the wild after years of extensive poaching for their valuable horns, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. The last wild northern white rhinos were killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006. Nola is being eulogized today on Twitter under the hashtag #Nola4Ever.
Sas-Rolfes M.,Independent wildlife trade economist |
Moyle B.,Massey University |
Stiles D.,Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Pachyderm | Year: 2014
Recent elephant poaching levels are a serious concern for conservationists. Opinions differ over how to deal with the upsurge and associated illegal ivory trade. Following the CITES-imposed international trade ban voted in 1989, limited legal trade has been permitted in two one-off sales. Opinions are divided on what effect this has had on poaching. Opinions are now also divided over whether trade in ivory products should be outlawed worldwide, both between and within countries. In the midst of this debate is the question of what government agencies should do with existing stockpiles of collected legal and confiscated illegal ivory. Governments of some countries have destroyed their stockpiles with the claimed intent of reducing poaching, and there are calls for others to follow suit. We review the academic literature and available relevant data and find that under current circumstances, stockpile destruction violates the precautionary principle because the outcome is unknown; it is therefore not recommended. Credible evidence suggests that speculation may drive the current high poaching rates more than consumer demand for carvings. Legal stockpiles provide an option to curtail speculative behaviour of criminals. We recommend that governments move closer towards consensus on a long-term vision for elephant and ivory management before undertaking measures such as large-scale stockpile destruction. In the meantime they should continue to retain existing ivory stockpiles securely to reduce incentives for criminal speculation with illegally accumulated stockpiles. We recommend that research be carried out to understand better the dynamics of the current legal and illegal ivory trade systems in order to formulate evidence-based policy. © 2014, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. All rights reserved.
News Article | November 22, 2015
Nola, an aging rhino that had resided at the California zoo park since 1989, had been receiving treatment for a bacterial infection, according to a statement on the zoo's website. She was placed under constant veterinary watch last week as her appetite and activity levels declined. After her condition worsened significantly, caretakers decided to euthanize her, zoo officials said. "Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide," the zoo said. "Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts." The three remaining northern white rhinos are at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, the zoo said on Facebook in response to an outpouring of comments from Nola's fans.
News Article | November 23, 2015
The last four northern white rhinos in the world are now down to three, as San Diego Zoo Safari Park loses Nola Sunday. The 41-year-old female northern white rhino, already geriatric, was euthanized by the safari park team after a week of listlessness and a massive pelvic abscess and bacterial infection. "In the past 24 hours Nola's condition had worsened significantly. Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her," read an official statement from the Safari Park. Nola’s death leaves the world with only three northern white rhinos, all protected 24/7 from poaching Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. In 1989, Sudan-born Nola arrived at the park in Southern California from a Czech zoo as part of a breeding initiative. The 4,000-pound rhino, the last of her kind held captive in the Western hemisphere, was considered an iconic and well-loved animal at the park and around the world. "Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts," the zoo said of the dead rhino, which was endeared for her gentleness and affinity for back scratches from the zoo personnel. The news of Nola’s death came months after Angalifu, a 44-year-old northern white rhino, yielded to cancer at the same park. It also followed a couple of weeks after the transporting of six southern white rhinos — the northern whites’ close kin and with fewer than about 20,000 remaining in the wild — from South Africa to San Diego in an effort to save them from extinction. Poachers are estimated to kill about three from this breed every day. It is yet to be known if the southern and northern white rhinos are two separate species or are subspecies of one another. According to zoo spokesperson Christina Simmons, they will determine if the southern whites’ genes are similar enough to maternally surrogate embryos from northern white DNA. For some good news, a baby red panda was safely brought back to the Sequoia Park Zoo in the far northern coast of California after being lost four days earlier. The one-year-old panda was spotted walking about half a mile away from the zoo entrance until it was herded up a small tree by a concerned citizen, ready to be lured back to the zoo by staff.
News Article | November 23, 2015
Nola, a 41-year-old rhino brought to the Southern California park in 1989 as part of a breeding program, took a turn for the worse over the weekend following a Nov. 13 surgical procedure to drain a large pelvic abscess identified as the infection source, the zoo said in a statement. The 4,000-pound (1,800-kg) rhino had been placed under constant veterinary watch last week as her appetite and activity levels declined. After her condition deteriorated significantly, caretakers decided to euthanize the animal, zoo officials said. "Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide," the zoo said. "Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts." Her gentle disposition and affinity for having her back scratched made her a favorite of zoo staff. Northern white rhinos were declared extinct in the wild in 2008 because of poaching for their horns, prized on the black market for their supposed medicinal properties in some cultures. Nola was the only member of her kind left in captivity in the Western Hemisphere. With her death, just three others remain, all at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, zoo officials said. Nola was born in the wild in Sudan and captured at about 2 years of age, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. She arrived in California from a Czech zoo. Her death came weeks after six southern white rhinos, close cousins of northern whites, were brought to San Diego from South Africa in an effort to bring Nola's kind back from the brink of extinction. Scientists remain unsure whether northern and southern white rhinos are two distinct species or subspecies of each other. Studies are under way to determine if southern whites, of which fewer than 20,000 are estimated to remain in the wild, are genetically similar enough to serve as maternal surrogates for implanted embryos that would be developed from northern white rhino DNA, zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons said. Wildlife experts say southern white rhinos are in dire straits, too, killed by poachers at the rate of three a day.