A Czech zoo says a 34-year-old northern white rhinoceros has died in Kenya, further reducing the world's dwindling population of the critically endangered animal.
Suni was born at the zoo in Dvur Kralove in June 1980. The zoo says Suni was found dead on October 17 in the Ol Pejeta animal sanctuary. The cause of death wasn't immediately clear, but the zoo has ruled out death by poachers. He was one of the four northern white rhinos that the Czech zoo moved to Africa in December 2009 in an attempt to save the species from extinction. The zoo hoped it could be easier for them to breed at the conservancy in Kenya rather than in captivity.
Poachers had originally reduced the population or northern white rhinos from 500 to 15 by the end of the1980's. From the early 1990s through mid-2003, the population recovered to almost three dozen animals. But since then, poaching intensified and reduced the wild population to only four animals as of 2005. Ground and aerial surveys conducted in August of that year found only four animals-- a solitary adult male and a group of one adult male and two adult females. In June 2008, it was concluded that the species had likely gone extinct in the wild, since none of these four known remaining animals had been seen in the previous two years.
There are now six remaining northern white rhinoceros on the planet-- all living in captivity. San Diego has two animals-- a non-breeding pair: Angalifu (male) and Nola (female), and the Dvur Kralove zoo has a 30-year old female named Nabire. The remaining three animals-- Sudan(male), Najin (female) and Fatu (female, and the last to be born in captivity in 2000)-- survive at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.