Only Six Northern White Rhinos Are Left on the Planet

One of the last two breeding males of the species was found dead on Friday.

(Photo: Noor Khamis/Reuters)

Oct 20, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

A rhino died on Friday.

The loss of any rhinoceros is a strain on the world’s dwindling population. But the death of Suni, an extremely rare northern white rhino, is catastrophic.

With Suni’s death, the species’ population is down to six animals—all of which live in captivity. The 34-year-old rhino was one of two breeding males left on the planet. He was found dead in his enclosure at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya by rangers.

“Suni was not a victim of poaching, and we have yet to establish the cause of his sudden death,” the conservancy said in a statement.

Suni was the first northern white rhino born into captivity. He was transferred to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in 2009. Suni’s father, Saút, died in the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic in 2006 of natural causes at 34—the same age as Suni.

“The species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race,” the statement said.

The conservancy has been unsuccessfully working to breed the northern white rhino in its compound since the four rhinos—including Suni—were transferred to the reserve in 2009.

Over the past five years, breeding hasn’t produced a newborn calf.

“We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino,” the conservancy concluded.

There are now three northern white rhinos at Ol Pejeta, two at the San Diego Zoo, and one at the Dvůr Králové Zoo.

The population has dwindled since 1960, when about 2,000 roamed across Chad, the Central African Republic, southwestern Sudan, northeastern Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo, and northwestern Uganda.

Poaching cut their numbers down to 15 by 1984.