The death of a Northern white rhinoceros at a Czech Republic zoo on Monday has left only four members of the critically endangered subspecies alive.
Nabire, a 31-year-old female rhino, died as a result of the rupture of a large, untreatable cyst, said officials at the Dyur Kralove Zoo.
“It is a terrible loss. Nabire was the kindest rhino ever bred in our zoo. It is not just that we were very fond of her; her death is a symbol of the catastrophic decline of rhinos due to senseless human greed,” said zoo director Premysl Rabas in a statement.
Rabas refers to poaching, which has effectively wiped out the subspecies. Hunters prize the rhino’s horn because some cultures believe it has medicinal properties. According to National Geographic, the only remaining male white rhino is 42 and can no longer breed. His horn has been cut off to deter poachers. The other three Northern white rhinos are all captive females – one that lives at the San Diego Zoo and two females that live with the remaining male at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
According to a CNN report, Nabire’s ovaries and other organs have been taken to a laboratory in Italy. Scientists hope that they may one day conceive new members of the subspecies using in vitro fertilization.