One of last four northern white rhinos on Earth is euthanized

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

And now there are only threeThe northern white rhino is one of the world’s most endangered species and a crowdfunding initiative wants to save them. Nola was euthanized at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Sunday after an illness from a bacterial infection and age-related health issues worsened, the park said in a statement on its Facebook page. Frequent civil wars and widespread poaching of rhinos in Africa, driven largely by demand in Asia for ground-up horns as an ingredient in medicine, has caused their numbers to plummet. There are now only three northern white rhinos left in the world, a male and two related females, and they live under armed guard at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

Only about 29,000 rhinos remain in the wild today, down from about 500,000 at the beginning of the 20th century, according to the charity Save the Rhino. The 42-year-old male called Sudan, who despite his name, resides in a national park in Kenya, is kept under constant guard, given that he is the last remaining hope to keep his species alive.

This year, that number fell to three: In addition to Nola, a 31-year-old Czech rhino named Nabiré died after complications from a ruptured cyst in July. Scientists have taken sperm samples from the male rhinoceros, which are currently being stored inside tanks of liquid nitrogen at a zoo in the Czech Republic, the Sunday Times reports. With in vitro fertilisation now the only hope of prolonging the life of the species, the survivors are protected by 24-hour armed security in a 700-acre enclosure. All are older and neither of the females is capable of breeding naturally, the conservancy said, while Sudan’s sperm count is “disappointingly low” due to his age. Her death came weeks after six southern white rhinos, close cousins of northern whites, were brought to San Diego from South Africa in an effort to impregnate Nola.

Buyers value them as dagger handles and for their supposed medicinal properties – a superstition disproved by scientists, but persistent in many Asian cultures. But good fortune and local governments favored the southern white rhino: a combination of legal protections, breeding efforts and regulated trophy hunting initiatives helped bring the subspecies back from the brink.

Premier Mike Baird has been called on to prevent Rio Tinto from destroying endangered woods near a Hunter Valley coalmine that it promised to conserve just 12 years ago. The mining giant agreed to an adjacent non-disturbance area (NDA) of forest as part of approval conditions in 2003 for the expansion of its Mount Thorley Warkworth coalmine.

Aside from preserving the ironbark woods, the clause provided a buffer for residents in the nearby village of Bulga, who oppose the project extension. (See NDA1 in dark green in the map below.) “That is the original sin of Rio Tinto,” John Krey, president of the Bulga Milbrodale Progress Association, said. “They broke their promise, which was supposedly gilt-edged.” Mr Krey’s group has written to Mr Baird and Planning Minister Rob Stokes in “a last ditch effort” to have the government intervene to reimpose the original offset condition. The letters come just weeks before the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) is due to release its final decision on whether to approve Rio Tinto’s plans. A version of the proposed expansion was twice knocked back by the courts before the Coalition government reduced the ability of mine opponents to challenge projects in the courts. “I understand the concerns and have listened first-hand to the community,” Mr Baird said, declining to respond directly to the plea and noting the verdict now sits with the independent PAC. “Co-existence is important and we must get the balance right …

A government source said that as the original deed had been set aside by the two parties involved – the O’Farrell government and Rio Tinto – there was now little that could be done since Rio Tinto would not agree to a reversal. “It is not enough for Premier Baird and Minister Stokes to visit a community and say they are listening when behind the scenes the government is ignoring previous agreements andwaving the project through,” Ms Sharpe said. “[The] government needs to take steps to ensure this cannot happen again.” Mr Krey said that should the PAC approve the mine’s expansion, it could require Rio Tinto restore its original pledge to protect the woodland as a condition of its approval. But the number of preserved reproductive cells is tiny — they come from just 12 northern whites — and the procedure is still a long way from being ready to use them.

However, as reported by Fairfax Media in April, Rio Tinto has already scoped out a further expansion of the mine, which would destroy the remaining part of the NDA and bring the mine within 500 metres of the town of Bulga. If all else fails, southern white rhino females may also be artificially inseminated with preserved northern males’ sperm, preserving some of the genetic traits that make the northern subspecies unique. This step, though less than ideal, would at least add to the rhino population’s genetic diversity. “It’s kind of a race against time,” the preservation’s CEO Richard Vigne told Live Science in June of this year when the global population of the subspecies stood at five animals. “Those remaining females could all die tomorrow.

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