Mission: Save the Northern White Rhino from Extinction

Decades of poaching have taken a heavy toll on all rhinos, but the northern white rhino has suffered worst of all. With only two left on the planet, the northern white rhino is the most endangered animal on Earth.

But we have a plan to save their species.

By combining innovative science and decades of world-class animal care expertise, we’ve created a one-of-a-kind rhino rescue program. Our world-class team of scientists, researchers, and animal care experts are working together to develop techniques for assisted reproduction and genetic rescue. With the help of six female southern white rhinos, we’re proving that the science works.

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The southern white rhino females at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center

The six southern white rhino females at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center are playing a crucial role in bringing the northern white rhino back from extinction.

40

A rhino can thunder along at 40 miles per hour.

About the Rhino Rescue Center

The Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a state-of-the-art rhino sanctuary. The six female southern white rhinos who live at the Rhino Rescue Center were relocated from Africa to the Safari Park in 2015. Before coming to San Diego, one of them had even survived a poaching attempt.

Wild rhino populations have been devastated by decades of poaching for the rhino horn trade, civil wars, and habitat loss. Even though rhino horn is only made of keratin, the same material as human fingernails, a wild rhino is poached for its horn every 8 hours, on average. At this rate, white rhinos could become extinct in 15 years.

The Rhino Rescue Center is dedicated to the conservation of rhinos, with a focus on assisted reproductive techniques and genetic rescue. The innovative facility includes indoor and outdoor yards, a temperature-controlled barn, and a cutting-edge veterinary and research center.

 

 

The front of the rhino barn at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center in San Diego.

The front of the rhino barn at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

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Number of rhinos living at the Rhino Rescue Center: 6 females + 1 male.

Conservation in Action

Two of the rhinos at the Rhino Rescue Center, Amani and Victoria, are pregnant by artificial insemination. Though they and their babies are southern white rhinos, this is an important first step in the long-term initiative to save the northern white rhino from extinction. The rhino reproductive system is complex and artificial insemination has rarely been attempted. Worldwide, only a few births have occurred using this procedure.

With 2 successful artificial inseminations completed, our scientists and animal care team are developing the techniques to perform in vitro fertilizations with northern white rhino embryos. Ultimately, we hope that our southern white rhinos can serve as surrogate mothers for northern white rhino calves.

 

 

 

 

Life in Paradise

Standing up to 6 feet tall, weighing up to 5,000 pounds, and thundering along at speeds up to 40 mph, it’s no wonder that a group of these iconic giants is known as a “crash.”

But looks can be deceiving. Rhinos are content munching on grasses, wallowing in a mud hole, and enjoying a nap in the sun. And the rhinos at the Rescue Center do that—they spend their days snacking and strolling together peacefully, worlds away from the strife and poaching in Africa.

 

 

Amani, Nikita, and Victoria

From left to right: Amani, Nikita, and Victoria.

12-13

Length of an adult white rhino, in feet—about the same as a Volkswagen Beetle.

Meet the Rhinos

Gentle and social, each rhino at the Rescue Center has a unique personality:

Amani, whose name means “peace” in Swahili, is the most playful and quickest to learn of the group. Her caretakers describe her as friendly and curious, and she loves attention. At 10 years old, she's the eldest of the group. At 4,400 pounds, she’s also the largest—she even outweighs Maoto, the Rescue Center’s resident male.

Nikita is Amani’s best friend. Though she arrived at the Rescue Center timid and shy, Nikita has blossomed into a friendly, curious rhino. She loves to be scratched behind the ears and learned to open her mouth on cue, so that we could check the health of her teeth, just by watching Amani’s training sessions!

Victoria, the resident diva, is very food-motivated and gets “hangry” if she doesn’t get her snacks on time. She loves rhino biscuits and having her legs scratched, and detests cucumbers.

 

 

Livia, Helene, and Maoto

From left to right: Livia, Helene, and Maoto.

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1,000

Weight of an adult white rhino's head, in pounds; about as much as a grand piano. White rhinos can weigh up to 5,000 pounds total.

Livia is easy-going and gets along with everyone, though she can usually be found by Victoria’s side. Curious and relaxed, Livia prefers to do things on her own time—until it’s time for afternoon snacks, when she scoots to the front of the line!

Helene is smart and learns quickly. She has a mischievous sense of humor and occasionally stirs up some excitement around the Rescue Center. She loves interacting with her keepers, but can also be a bit stubborn.

Maoto is the resident southern white rhino male. He's fathered several rhino calves at the Safari Park over the years as part of the Species Survival Plan.

Wallis is tiny, tough, and brave. The smallest of the group, she arrived at the Rhino Rescue Center with a bullet lodged in her side—the result of a failed poaching attempt—but has since recovered and the fragment has been removed. She’s small and sweet, but she’s no pushover.

 

 

Wallis, a southern white rhino, survived a poaching attempt

Wallis survived a poaching attempt when she lived in Africa. Now she lives a peaceful life with other rescued rhinos at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center.

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On average, a wild rhino is poached for its horn every 8 hours.

Nola: Apple of Our Eye & Inspiration to All

With a love for red apples, a knack for painting, and a gentle personality that was one-in-a-million, Nola the northern white rhino was an icon and the matriarch of our San Diego Zoo Safari Park rhino family.

She was just one of a handful of northern white rhinos left on the planet. Sadly, she passed away on November 22, 2015. Her loss was devastating for millions of fans around the world and all of us at San Diego Zoo Global.

Even though she's no longer with us, Nola continues to inspire our mission to save the northern white rhino from extinction.

 

 

Nola, a northern white rhino, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Nola lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and was one of the last few northern white rhinos on Earth.

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Nola lived to be 41 years old. Rhino life spans are typically 40 to 45 years.

A Brighter Future

San Diego Zoo Global has been working for decades, along with other accredited organizations, to keep a sustainable population of rhinos safe under human care while working to protect them in the wild. When an average of three wild rhinos are killed each day by poachers, this is more important than ever.

San Diego Zoo Global has the most successful rhino breeding and conservation programs of its kind in the world, and has welcomed nearly 200 rhino babies since 1972. With the help of supporters like you, we’re committed to bringing these gentle giants back from the brink of extinction. When we collaborate and share our passion, experience, and expertise, the future for wildlife and wild places looks brighter and more hopeful.

 

 

Nola, a northern white rhino, wades into a pool

Nola at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

1 or 2

Number of horns rhinos have. Javan rhinos and greater one-horned rhinos have one horn. Sumatran rhinos, black rhinos, and white rhinos have two.

You Can Help

Your donation to the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy can help relocate rhinos to safer habitats, provide anti-poaching patrols, and rescue orphaned rhinos whose parents have been slaughtered by poachers.

Three Southern white rhinos grazing on green grass

photo credit | hero image | Byrdyak/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images