Critically Endangered Rhino Recovers from Surgical Procedure

San Diego Zoo Safari Park

One of the last living northern white rhinos is recovering from a surgical procedure that her keepers hope will cure a chronic infection threatening the animal’s health.

Nola is a 41-year-old rhinoceros at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Her species is critically endangered with just three others living in a preserve in Kenya.

On Friday, Nola underwent a surgical procedure to remove an abscess discovered during a recent ultrasound.

The 4,500-pound rhino has undergone multiple procedures and diagnostic tests over the past few months to find the source of an infection near her right hip.

"We hope this procedure will resolve the infection Nola has had for many months now, and she certainly should feel better in the days to come,” said Dr. Nadine Lamberski, Associate Director of Veterinary Services.

Lamberski said only a local anesthesia and a mild sedative were used so Nola was awake and standing during the procedure.

She will stay in the boma for the next few weeks where she’ll be monitored closely. Her keepers say she is eating and walking normally.

Northern white rhinos are at the brink of extinction due to poaching for their horn, zoo officials said.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park recently received six southern white rhinos between four and seven 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 within the next 10 to 15 years a northern white rhino could be born from these efforts.

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.

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