One of the last remaining survivors of one of the world's rarest animals has died, inching yet another species closer to extinction. Angalifu, a 44-year-old male northern white rhino kept at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, passed away on Sunday, zoo officials say - leaving only five members of the species.
"Angalifu's death is a tremendous loss to all of us," Rancy Reiches, curator of mammals at the zoo's Safari Park, told the Los Angeles Times.
Although the zoo says that Angalifu died of natural causes, the primary factor that led to the dramatic decline of his kind was anything but natural. Northern white rhinos were once found across present day Chad, Uganda, the Congo and South Sudan, but after just a few short decades of rampant poaching for their highly valued horns, these animals were pushed to the brink of complete annihilation.
Between 1960 and 1984, the northern white rhino population was reduced from around 2,000 individuals to just 15.
Conservationists have called the rhinos' decline a "sorry testament to the greed of the human race," but nevertheless tried to save the few remaining.
In a last-ditch effort to save these animals from extinction, the few survivors have been closely guarded. Angalifu, along with a female white rhino, were transferred to the San Diego Zoo in the 1980s with hopes that an offspring would be produced, though those efforts proved unsuccessful.
With two of the five remaining rhinos housed alone in captivity, the future of the species rests on a single breeding male and two females at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.