SAN DIEGO – One of only four northern white rhinos believed left in the world died Sunday at San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Nola, a 41-year-old female who has been at the park since 1989, was euthanized after her health took a turn for the worse, a zoo statement said.
The geriatric rhino had arthritis and other ailments and was being treated for a bacterial infection linked to an abscess in her hip.
Nola had surgery on Nov. 13 to drain the abscess but her health began to deteriorate about a week ago; her appetite faltered and she became listless. She worsened over the past 24 hours and vets decided they had to euthanize her, the zoo said.
"Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide," the park statement said.
The remaining three northern white rhinos, all elderly, are in a closely guarded preserve in Kenya.
The subspecies has been decimated by poachers, who kill the rhinos for their horns. The horns are in high demand in parts of Asia where some people claim they have medicinal properties for treating everything from hangovers to cancer.
In an effort to preserve the species, the San Diego zoo took possession earlier this month of six female southern white rhinos from South Africa.
Zoo researchers are working on developing northern white rhino embryos to be implanted in the six new arrivals, who will serve as surrogate mothers.
Researchers have said they hope a northern white rhino calf could be born from a San Diego surrogate mother within 10 to 15 years.