One of the last living northern white rhinos has died, leaving only three left in the world, the San Diego Zoo announced Sunday morning.
Nola was a 41-year-old rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where she live since 1989. Her species is critically endangered, with just three others living in a preserve in Kenya.
"This is a very difficult loss for the animal care staff who worked with her, our volunteers, guests, and to her species worldwide," the San Diego Zoo said in a statement on its Facebook page.
The 4,500-pound rhino was under veterinary care for a bacterial infection, as well as age-related issues, when her condition took a turn for the worse.
"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 #EndExtinction," the San Diego Zoo Safari Park said in a statement Sunday.
Nola had previously undergone multiple procedures and diagnostic tests over the past few months to find the source of an infection near her right hip. She had previously undergone a surgical procedure to remove an abscess discovered during a recent ultrasound.
"Nola’s legacy will live forever as her death leaves just three northern white rhinos on the planet," the zoo said. "You will be deeply, dearly missed."
Northern white rhinos are at the brink of extinction because of poaching for their horn, zoo officials said.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park recently received six southern white rhinos between 4 and 7 years old from private reserves in South Africa. These rhinos will become surrogate mothers for northern white rhino embryos developed by researchers.
Researchers are optimistic a northern white rhino could be born through these efforts within the next 10 to 15 years.
San Diego Zoo Global has one of the most successful rhino breeding programs in the world. To date, a total of 94 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.