Rare northern white rhino dies at California zoo leaving only 5 remaining on Earth

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Rare northern white rhino dies at California zoo leaving only 5 remaining on Earth
In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, female northern white rhino Fatu grazes in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, female northern white rhino Fatu leaves her pen to graze in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, female northern white rhino Fatu walks in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, female northern white rhino Najin walks in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, female northern white rhino Najin stands in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, female northern white rhino Najin stands in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, keeper Mohamed Doyo leans over to pat female northern white rhino Najin in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, female northern white rhino Najin walks in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014, keeper Mohamed Doyo walks with female northern white rhino Fatu as she is let out of her pen to graze, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
In this photo taken Monday, Dec. 1, 2014, keeper Zachariah Mutai brings hay to eat for female northern white rhino Fatu, in her pen where she is being kept for observation at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The keepers of three of the last six northern white rhinos on Earth said Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 that it is highly unlikely the three will ever reproduce naturally, with recent medical examinations of them showing the species is doomed to extinction, unless science can help. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Sudan, a 20-year-old white rhino who was translocated from Czech Republic is seen in a pen at Ol Pejeta Conservation camp in Kenya on Monday Dec. 21, 2009. Only 8 Northern White Rhinos are in the world. (AP Photo/Riccardo Gangale)
Sudan, a 20-year-old white rhino who was translocated from Czech Republic is seen in a pen at Ol Pejeta Conservation camp in Kenya on Monday Dec. 21, 2009. Only 8 Northern White Rhinos are in the world. (AP Photo/Riccardo Gangale)
Rhino kepeer Jan Zdarek calls Suni, a 29-year-old male white rhino, after it arrived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009. Four of the world's last known eight northern white rhinos landed in Kenya on Sunday and were transported to the game park where officials hope the endangered mammals will reproduce and save their sub species. (AP Photo/Riccardo Gangale)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A family of White-Rhinos is seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A male White-Rhino and a calf are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A male White-Rhino and a calf are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A White-Rhinos is seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT A family of White-Rhinos is seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT White-Rhinos are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AYMERIC VINCENOT White-Rhinos are seen on August 7, 2014 at the Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary, in the Laikipia county, approximately 300 kilometres north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. With camouflage uniforms, assault rifles, night vision goggles, thermal imaging devices and radios, wildlife rangers in Kenya's Ol Jogi rhino sanctuary prepare for night patrol in the 'war' against poaching. Kenya continues to lose precious wild animals with poachers having killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants so far this year. Last year, 59 rhinos and 389 elephants were slain. AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)
KENYA - 2013/10/29: White rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) at Lake Nakuru National Park in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KENYA - 2013/10/29: Tourists watching White rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) crossing the road at Lake Nakuru National Park in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
With only six white rhinos left on the planet, extinction of the species seems imminent.
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SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A northern white rhinoceros that was only one of six left in the world died Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, zoo officials said.

Angalifu, who was about 44 years old, apparently died of old age.

"Angalifu's death is a tremendous loss to all of us," safari park curator Randy Rieches said in a statement. "Not only because he was well beloved here at the park but also because his death brings this wonderful species one step closer to extinction."

His death leaves only one northern white rhino at the San Diego zoo - a female named Nola - one at a zoo in the Czech Republic and three in a preserve in Kenya.

Rhino horns are valued as dagger handles and are mistakenly seen as an aphrodisiac. As a result, poaching has pushed the critically endangered rhinos to the brink of extinction.

Attempts to mate Angalifu with Nola weren't successful.

Just last week, preservationists at the Old Pejeta animal sanctuary in Kenya conceded that their one male and two female northern white rhinos will not reproduce naturally. The animals were flown from the Czech zoo to the Kenyan conservancy in December 2009 in hopes that the natural environment could be easier for them to breed there than in captivity.

Efforts will now be made to keep the species alive through in vitro fertilization. That experiment could take place with a southern white rhino surrogate mother. Southern white rhinos almost went extinct at the end of the 19th century, plunging down to only 20 at one point. Decades of conservation efforts gradually brought them back to life.

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