British troops fatally shot an endangered white rhinoceros after it charged them while they were lost on military exercises in northern Kenya, a wildlife official said Sunday.

"The rhino charged and they had no option but to shoot it," said Connie Maina, spokeswoman for the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The incident took place Friday evening in Laikipia, around 190 miles north of the capital, Nairobi. The remote area boasts some of Kenya's best wildlife viewing.

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British troops have a base near Laikipia and regularly undergo training in the area, said Maina, who had no further details on the incident.

British officials were not immediately available for comment.

White rhinos have made a recovery in some areas of Africa but are critically endangered in others. Wildlife experts say the number of white rhinos in Kenya has dwindled to about 170.

They are the biggest of the rhino family, weighing as much as 6,000 pounds. Among land mammals, only the elephant is bigger.

Conservationists say there were once around 20,000 white and black rhinos in Kenya but their population has been decimated by poachers for their horns, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine or for ceremonial dagger handles.