The San Diego Zoo Safari Park announced that a Northern White Rhinoceros died on Sunday after suffering from a bacterial infection. On the brink of extinction, the tragedy has left only three in the world.
"Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her," zoo officials said in a statement on Sunday.
The 41-year-old female rhino named Nola had undergone surgical procedures on November 13 aimed at draining an abscess in her hip.
However, her health began deteriorating a week ago, with it steadily declining over the weekend, leading to the decision to euthanize one of the last of the nearly extinct species.
"Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide," the zoo said in a statement.
"Through the year, 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 statement added.
Zoo spokeswoman Christina Simmons also noted that the park was determining whether Southern White Rhinos were genetically similar to Northern White Rhinos.
The zoo's hopes are that they could use the Southern Whites as maternal surrogates for implanted embryos developed from Northern Whites' DNA, Simmons added.
The remaining three Northern White Rhinos are located in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
ls/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP)