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Not Dead Yet
Michael Nichols/National Geographic Stock (captive)
If you're in Southern California, you might stop by to see the two elderly northern white rhinoceroses at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, because the species is not long for this earth. Once, they were distributed throughout Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda; now only seven of the creatures remain.
One is in a zoo in the Czech Republic, and four—prophylactically shorn of the horns that are worth more than gold to poachers, and which have brought about their near extinction—are in a closely observed breeding facility in Kenya. "Fatu and Suni have been successfully mating every cycling period," says an update on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy Web site. "Click here to watch the mating. (Viewer discretion is advised!)"
The last northern white, however, was born in 2000, and hope is fading. "It's a hard pill to swallow, to see them go extinct in my lifetime," says Randy Rieches, curator of mammals at the San Diego facility. In the absence of traditional reproduction, zoologists are trying to preserve the northern whites' gene pool by breeding them with the far more numerous southern white rhinos, by freezing semen, and even by harvesting stem cells.
"When technology catches up," Rieches says, "there is still a possibility that in 10 or 20 years we can bring the species back. But not today." —Paul Rauber
The Next Big Thing