Zookeepers are mourning the loss of a beloved southern white rhinoceros named Chuck who passed away at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Friday.
Animal care staff noticed a significant decline in Chuck's health during the past few weeks. On Feb. 2, 2018, they decided to humanely euthanize him.
He was the longtime companion of Nola, one of the last northern white rhinos, who died a few years ago. Chuck was nearly 50 years old at the time of his death. San Diego Zoo officials said that his birth date was estimated to be in 1969.
Zoo officials said he became famous as a loyal buddy for Nola. Since Nola passed away, Chuck has lived with other rhinos at the Safari Park. The elderly southern white rhino arrived at the Safari Park from the Knoxville Zoo in 1996.
In late 2015, Nola was euthanized at age 41 while suffering from a serious bacterial infection and age-related conditions. The 4,500-pound rhino was one of the last remaining northern white rhinos in the world.
There is no immediate danger posed to Chuck's species. The Union Tribune reported that the southern white rhino population is estimated at 20,000. There are still 16 other white rhinos, including two males and 14 females at the Safari Park.
Since the death of one of the few northern white rhinos, scientists at the zoo have been working on a genetic project, known as 'Frozen Zoo,' to help save endangered species. The zoo hopes to use saved stem cells to eventually repopulate the northern white rhinos' species.