In truth, her health had been failing for months. Despite being in and out of veterinary care, Nola had always bounced back. But a large abscess by her pelvis proved too much for the 41-year-old northern white rhino – one of only four such creatures left anywhere in the world.
“It is with profound sadness we announce that 41-year-old Nola, one of only 4 remaining northern white rhinos, has died,” the facility posted on Facebook. “Nola, who lived here since 1989, was under veterinary care for a bacterial infection, as well as age-related health issues. In the last 24 hours, Nola’s condition worsened and we made the difficult decision to euthanize her. We’re absolutely devastated by this loss, but resolved to fight even harder to #EndExtinction. We ask you to join us in that fight. Please share your memories of Nola and your condolences with the #Nola4Ever hashtag, and let this be a warning of what is happening to wildlife everywhere. #RIP sweet girl. You will be deeply, dearly missed.”
Veterinarians performed a “minor surgical procedure” on the 4,500-pound rhino on Nov. 13 to drain the large abscess, which was lodged deep in her pelvic region. Vets successfully removed 90 per cent of the infected material.
But in the last week, she wasn’t eating and her activity slowed. Zookeepers kept an eye on her around-the-clock.
“In the last 24 hours Nola’s condition worsened significantly and the animal care team at the Safari Park were maintaining her on intensified treatment efforts,” the zoo said in a statement. “Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her.”
The three other northern white rhinos are under human care in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The species is on the path to extinction due to poaching for their horn. But experts there, in San Diego and around the world are working to save the subspecies by collecting genetic material, storing in the so-called Frozen Zoo, developing reproductive technologies and hatching surrogacy plans.
Zoogoers and animals lovers have been offering condolences and posting photos of Nola since her death was announced. And, the facility has pledged to carry on their fight to save the iconic species in Nola’s memory.
“Through the years, millions of people learned about Nola and the plight of rhinos in the wild through visits to the Safari Park, numerous media stories and social media posts,” the zoo noted. “Nola leaves a legacy that her keepers and animal care staff hope will continue to help rhino conservation for years to come.”
Photos San Diego Zoo Safari Park