And then there were three...

Nola the northern white rhino's death leaves just three in the world

Nola, a female northern white rhino in San Diego Zoo, died aged 41 on Sunday 22nd November. This leaves just three remaining on the planet; all of them live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. The future of this subspecies now lies in the development of in vitro fertilisation techniques and stem cell technology, costly and complicated procedures that have never before been attempted in rhinos. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is together with Dvůr Králové Zoo trying to raise USD 1 million towards this with a GoFundMe campaign called ‘Make a Rhino’.

A statement from San Diego Zoo said “Nola, who lived here since 1989, was under veterinary care for a bacterial infection, as well as age-related health issues. In the last 24 hours, Nola’s condition worsened and we made the difficult decision to euthanize her. We’re absolutely devastated by this loss, but resolved to fight even harder to end extinction.”

Her death leaves two females and one male in Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The animals were moved to Kenya from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009, along with one other male northern white rhino who subsequently died on Ol Pejeta. It was hoped that more natural conditions would encourage mating, but as several fruitless years passed, staff at Ol Pejeta were forced to explore alternatives. In 2014, a male southern white rhino was introduced to the two female northern whites. It was hoped that if breeding were successful, the hybrid offspring would at least conserve some of the northern white genes. Again, this proved unsuccessful. Tests later revealed that neither of the females are capable of natural reproduction.

Unless a technique for rhino IVF or stem cell technology can be funded, developed, tested and implemented, the northern white rhino will become extinct. Team of experts led by IZW Berlin has been cooperating with Dvůr Králové and Ol Pejeta on this already.

The ‘Make a Rhino’ campaign on GoFundMe aims to raise funds to assist in the research necessary to save the species.  Ol Pejeta Conservancy is appealing to people all over the world to help. “We wouldn’t be asking people to donate if we didn’t truly believe that there was one last ray of hope for saving the northern white rhino” says Ol Pejeta CEO, Richard Vigne. “It is by no means straightforward, but saving a subspecies from extinction in an age where science is capable of so many extraordinary things - I believe it can be done. All we need is for citizens around the world to club together to save the northern white rhino for future generations”.

All funds raised on Ol Pejeta’s GoFundMe page,, go directly to the IVF initiative.


Ol Pejeta Conservancy CEO, Richard Vigne talks to Sky News about the future of the northern white rhinos, which are now only 3 after the death of Nola.