It didn’t take a sudden plague to knock out one-fourth of the world’s northern white rhino population. It only took the death of a single animal.
Nola, a 41-year-old northern white rhino, died after battling a bacterial infection and age-related issues at the San Diego Zoo, where she had lived since 1989.
Now, only three northern white rhinos remain in existence.
The other living members of the subspecies currently reside at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where they’re protected around the clock by armed guards. The two females and one male who remain, Najin, Fatu, and Sudan, are considered elderly and unable to reproduce. Northern white rhinos have already been considered extinct in the wild since 2008, and when these three animals die, the subspecies may exist only as a memory, a history lesson, and a cautionary tale.
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) November 23, 2015
Poachers have long sought the animals for their horns. In parts of the world, the horns are seen as status symbols or are believed to have medicinal powers, although there is no proof that they have such powers. Aside from illegal poaching, habitat loss, as a result of human intervention, and pollution have also been cited as contributing factors in the northern white rhino’s demise.
Although the future of the subspecies is uncertain at best, one thing is for sure: Nola’s death should serve as a reminder to respect all animals, before it’s too late.