There Are Only 5 Northern White Rhinos Left in the World

It was just last year that the Western Black Rhino species was declared extinct, since none had been seen since 2006. Sadly, it now looks like the Northern White Rhino species might be going the same way.

Until last Sunday, December 14, there were just six of this species remaining in the world, but now that number is down to five. Angalifu, the 44-year-old male Northern White Rhino at the San Diego Safari Park, passed away in the early hours of the morning.

The rhino died of complications linked to his advanced age, and the remaining members of his species, another elderly female at the park, one at a zoo in Czechoslovakia, and two females and a final male living at the Ol Pejeta conservancy park in Kenya, have failed to successfully reproduce on their own.

“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us,”said Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Not only because he was well beloved here at the Park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction.”

Here is a video of Angalifu and his companion Nola, filmed a few months ago:

“More than two decades ago we started working with the species here at the Safari Park,” said Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology for the San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research. “Unfortunately we only had three rhinos here at the Park and they were all of an advanced age. We were not able to get them to breed and we have been sadly watching their species being exterminated in the wild.”

At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia. This fell to 70,000 by 1970 and further to just 29,000 in the wild today.

What happened?

Large-scale poaching of the now critically endangered Black Rhino resulted in a dramatic 96% decline from 65,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,300 in 1993. Thanks to the persistent efforts of conservation programs across Africa Black Rhino numbers have risen since the early 1990s to a current population of 5,055.

But poaching has taken a huge toll on all rhino numbers.

Eighty percent of the world’s remaining 29,000 rhinos live in South Africa, and they are under constant threat. Driving the killings is the black market in Asia, including Malaysia, South Korea, India and China, where rhino horn can go for as much as $65,000 per kilogram.

That’s because the horns are thought to have healing properties, but in fact they are made of keratin, basically the same protein as in your fingernails. So rhinos are being killed in increasingly larger numbers so their horns can be used for outmoded and inaccurate medical theories that may well exist long after the last rhino dies.

Educating people so they drop superstition about the supposed ‘magical powers’ of things like rhino horns is essential if we’re to reduce demand for poached wildlife.
However, for the Northern White Rhino it’s probably too late.

Extinction itself is a normal process, the fate met by 95 percent of species throughout Earth’s 3.5 billion year history. But the northern white rhino, decimated by poaching in Africa and, to a lesser extent, habitat loss, stands as a suitable representative for what experts are calling the Sixth Extinction: the current spasm of plant and animal loss, as the direct consequence of human activity, that threatens to eliminate 20 to 50 percent of all living species on earth within this century.

Rest in peace, Angalifu. We will miss you.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

80 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H4 years ago

It is sickening the selfishness of the human race. We take and take for our own greed and ego and we don't care what the cost. Species go extinct because we want to look pretty, have better sex drive, have money to burn on ivory. We aren't happy until the animals are wiped out. With only 5 left there is no hope to save the species. It looks like at the best they will die of old age and on to the extinct list.

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SE R.
Shari F4 years ago

Hello again, Mike K. You ask if I am suggesting that people are justified in using rhino horns to cure convulsions/fevers. I would ask that you re-read my post. It is clear that that is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is that in order to reduce consumption of rhino horn, it is imperative that people have a clear idea of who is using it and why. We need to find out exactly what is driving the trade – whether it really is newly rich people in China/Vietnam or other countries, whether it is drugs or weapons barons who are buying in bulk as an investment for future sale or whether it is something else. I felt it important to reply to your post because it embodies some of the issues surrounding rhino conservation today e.g. the frustration that accompanies the utterly pointless decline of this creature and also a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues. If rhinos are to have any hope of sustained recovery, people have to know about the real reasons for their decline, why the horn is used , where and by whom in order to effectively tackle the trade. Unfortunately, misconceptions, outdated stereotypes and misinformation does nothing for rhino conservation and is in fact counterproductive. I hope that clarifies matters for you.

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Elizabeth Z.
Elizabeth Z4 years ago

Very depressing. Good job humans, another species we've just about lost due to selfishness and greed.

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Ruhee B.
Ruhee B4 years ago

The only hope for the world's animals is that the human goes extinct and fast!

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Friedrich Kling Hauss
Frank Kling4 years ago

Among the consequences of taking down a few hundred species each day, and a mushrooming human population that swells by 80 million every year; at some point, we are the species we take into the abyss. The vanishing point draws nearer every day. Our response: More toys. Burn all fossil fuels. Clear-cut the rain forests. Strip-mine the soil. Pollute the water. Foul the air. Go shopping. And, most importantly, figure out how we can make a few more bucks as the world burns.

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Frances Bell
Frances Bell4 years ago

Cloning won't work... you still have the problem of an almost non-existent gene pool and animals who are not strong. Rather we should all grow a conscience and do the right thing by the environment and every other creature in it.

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Marcia Geiger
Marcia Geiger4 years ago

Another creature added to the list. Such a sadness that humans use skills to destroy, rather than create a better world. Humans= the worst thing that happened to the Earth and all the creatures and habitats,

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Dianne D.
Dianne D4 years ago

We can't allow this creature to parish. Fewer people on this earth and more animals.

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Fred L.
Fred L4 years ago

Humans are the scourge of the earth. Until we go extinct (hopefully soon), the natural world is in grave danger. It's too late to save the Northern White Rhino and many other species, but we can try to save others by executing poachers, merchants and consumers of endangered species products. Reduce the human population by about seven billion. That's my wish list for Christmas.

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