White rhinos are poached for their horns because some believe that the bone can be used as an aphrodisiac. A powdered form of the rhino horn is used to make the sexual aid. Zoo and animal experts staunchly maintain that the horns have no value for such a purpose. The horn of the northern white rhino is also coveted for use in dagger handles. Since the 1970s, the number northern white rhinos has drastically diminished worldwide.
“Angalifu’s death is a tremendous loss to all of us. Not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because his deaths brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction,” San Diego zoo representative Randy Rieches said.
Efforts to breed the northern white rhino captivity have unsuccessful. The San Diego Facebook page indicates that Angalifu has been undergoing treatment for “geriatric conditions for some time.” After the death of the San Diego Zoo white rhino, only one other of the species remains at the animal park — Nola, a 40-year-old female rhino.
A Czech Republic zoo also houses a northern white rhino, and an animal preserve in Kenya houses three of the species. Of the white rhinos still in existence, only one is a male. San Diego Zoo staffers attempted to mate Nola and Angalifu. Last week, a “preservationist” at the Old Pejeta animal park in Kenya said that the two female and one male north white rhinos at the sanctuary will not be able to reproduce naturally.
In 2009, the white rhinos were flown from the Czech Republic zoo to the Old Pejeta animal preserve in the hope that the creatures would be better able to breed in their natural environment.
“We always knew from the very beginning that the chances of this working were small even if they bred,” Kenyan animal conservancy staffer Richard Vigne said.
The northern white rhino preservation efforts will not reportedly focus on keeping the endangered species alive via in vitro fertilization. Angalifu’s testicular tissue and semen are being stored at the San Diego Institute for Conservation Research. The white rhino’s semen and testicular tissue will be used with the animals being held in captivity in Kenya until new fertilization technologies are developed.
The World Wildlife Federation says that there are about 20,000 southern white rhinos still lie today. The southern white rhinos nearly went extinct at the end of the 19th Century when only 20 of the species were known to exist. Several decades of conservation efforts have helped replenish the southern white rhino species.
What do you think about the death of one of only six remaining northern white rhinos?
[Image via: Glogster]