Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated 

The northern white rhino is one dangerous step closer to extinction. Angalifu, a northern white rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, died on Sunday, leaving only five such creatures in the subspecies left in the world, zoo officials said. Angalifu, who was estimated to be about 44 years old, was found dead early Sunday. Zoo officials haven’t yet determined a cause of death, but Angalifu had recently been under veterinary care for lack of appetite. In a statement, safari park curator Randy Rieches said: "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 death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction."

Northern white rhinos formerly roamed grasslands and savanna woodlands in several countries in East and Central Africa south of the Sahara. As late as 1960, there were more than 2,000 of them, but their numbers have dwindled rapidly due to widespread poaching for rhino horn. Today, the only survivors are the ones kept in zoos. With Angalifu’s passing, the five remaining northern white rhinos are one (a female named Nola) at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, one in a zoo in the Czech Republic and three that were sent to a wildlife conservancy in Kenya from the zoo in the Czech Republic.

The northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), also known as the northern square-lipped rhino, is one of two subspecies of the white rhinoceros. The other is the southern white rhino, which numbers about 20,000 in the world. White rhinos aren't actually white; their name comes from the Dutch "weit" (wide), a reference to the animal's wide muzzle, according to WWF.



— James Eng