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Only Four Northern White Rhinos Are Left on Earth

One of the species’ last females died this week

Nabiré had a chronic problem with uterine cysts, and the one that killed her was inoperable. (Joel Sartore, Hynek Glos/ZOO Dvůr Králové)
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It's been a bad week for one of the world's most endangered species. A zoo in the Czech Republic announced this week that their last their resident northern white rhino, a 31-year-old female named Nabiré, died from a burst cyst in her uterus. Nabiré was one of five surviving members of her species. Now only four remain, reports Stephanie Pappas for Live Science.

“Her death is a symbol of the catastrophic decline of rhinos due to a senseless human greed. Her species is on the very brink of extinction," Přemysl Rabas, who directs the Dvůr Králové Zoo where Nabiré lived, said in a statement.

Northern white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) once inhabited the plains of central and northern Africa. In 1960, around 2,000 remained, according to the World Wildlife Fund. By 1984, rampant poaching reduced that tally down to 15 in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Northern white rhinos have not been seen in the wild since 2006, according to the IUCN, and are considered critically endangered.

Three of the four remaining captive animals live on a reserve in Kenya, and one lives at the San Diego Zoo in California, writes Pappas. Conservationists originally hoped that breeding programs might help revive the species, but breeding rhinos from such a small population in captivity has proved extremely difficult. But there's a small glimmer of hope in Nabiré's death: before she died, zoo veterinarians removed one of her ovaries in hopes of preserving her eggs for future use as part of an in vitro fertilization program.

About Helen Thompson
Helen Thompson

Helen Thompson writes about science and culture for Smithsonian. She's previously written for NPR, National Geographic News, Nature and others.

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