Northern White Rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum cottoni

The northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), also known as the northern square-lipped rhinoceros, is a subspecies of the white rhinoceros that was once found in a large range in South and East Africa. Now there are only a few remaining individuals that reside in conservancies, in zoos, or possibly in the wild, although this cannot be confirmed. The last known wild population of this species, consisting of four individuals, resided in Garamba National Park in Democratic Republic of the Congo, but these have not been seen since 2006. Recent studies have shown that this subspecies may actually be a distinct species.

In 2009, four of the six northern white rhinoceroses in Dvůr Králové Zoo, located in the Czech Republic, were transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, located in Keya, Africa. These include two males and two females and are the only members of this subspecies that are able to breed. All of their horns were removed before they were placed in a fenced area that measures 400 x 400 meters, in order to prevent any damage that could be caused from conflicts. These were replaced with radio transmitters that help to monitor the location of the rhinos. The females are Najin and Fatu, Najin’s daughter, and the males are Sudan and Suni, Najin’s half-brother. One of the males was moved into a 700-acre enclosure that contains other African animals. Both females were later moved into this enclosure, but one had to be removed due to Najin’s protective behavior over Fatu. Suni and Naijin mated twice in 2012, but no pregnancy been recorded from these encounters.

Three northern white rhinoceroses comprise the captive population of this subspecies, including Nabire at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, the daughter of Sudan and Nasima. A male and a female northern white rhino, named Angalifu and Nola, are located in San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego California. Artificial insemination was attempted with the semen of the male from this zoo, but the attempts failed to produce a pregnancy.

Because the population numbers of the northern white rhinoceros are so low, conservation efforts are focused on captive breeding. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy holds the only members of this subspecies that are able to breed, so it is their last hope for survival. Currently, the northern white rhinoceros appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Critically Endangered,” but it is also possible to list it as “Extinct in the Wild.”

Image Caption: Angalifu, male Northern White Rhinoceros at San Diego Wild Animal Park. Credit: Sheep81/Wikipedia