See the Bigger Picture

Can you see the rhinos,
which went extinct this year?

With zoos, they might (just maybe)
begin to reappear.

San Diego Zoo, 2018


Functionally Extinct

Wild Population

Key Threat


The northern white rhinoceros is one of two subspecies of the white rhinoceros, alongside the larger southern white rhinoceros. The name "white" rhinoceros comes from a corruption of the Dutch word for "wide", as the white rhinoceros possesses a wide mouth for grazing. This is in contrast to the black rhinoceros which has a narrow, hooked lip to allow it to strip leaves from branches.

The greatest threat faced by the northern white rhinoceros has been poaching for its horn. In the '70s and '80s, poaching reduced its population to a low of 15 individuals, before conservation efforts doubled this number. Unfortunately, poaching has intensified and conservation efforts were too little and too late to save the species. The last wild northern white rhinoceros was seen in 2006, and there have been no signs of wild rhinos since 2008.

At the time of their extinction, only eight northern white rhinoceroses survived in captivity at the San Diego and Dvůr Králové zoos. At the beginning of this year, this number had dwindled down to just three individuals. By March, the last male (named Sudan) had died. The last two females, both descended from Sudan and born at the Dvůr Králové Zoo, now live semi-wild at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

While the northern white rhinoceros is now extinct, zoos like the San Diego Zoo are looking into using modern genetic technology to bring them back. It may be possible to use stored sperm and ovaries to produce and implant a northern white rhinoceros embryo into a female of the closely-related southern white rhinoceros. If this is successful, there is hope that northern white rhinoceroses might roam free once more.

historic current

Range & Habitat

The northern white rhinoceros once lived in open grassy plains of the central African savannas. It was found in five nations: the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Uganda and Chad. The northern white rhinoceros is now extinct in the wild, with the last two females living at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a protected reserve in Kenya.

How Can I Help?

You can help zoos bring species back from the brink of extinction by visiting zoos and sharing this website with friends! You can also support conservation efforts to help rhinoceroses in the wild by donating to Save the Rhino. Click on the button below to find out more!

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