Nola, a 41-year-old northern white rhino, has died at San Diego Zoo Safari Park in California, leaving just three of the endangered subspecies left on the planet.
A zoo statement Sunday said Nola — an elderly female — was euthanized following surgery for a bacterial infection linked to an abscess on her hip, the AP reported. She had also been suffering from arthritis and other ailments.
The operation took place on Nov. 13, but following a dramatic deterioration in her health recently, she was put down on Sunday.
"Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, but worldwide," the zoo said.
In a message posted on its Facebook page, San Diego Zoo described Nola's death as "very difficult loss."
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the death of Nola, a critically endangered northern white rhino who lived at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. This is a very difficult loss for the animal care staff who worked with her, our volunteers, guests, and to her species worldwide. Please take a moment to share your memories of Nola and your sympathy using the hashtag #Nola4Ever. Nola's legacy will live forever as her death leaves just 3 northern white rhinos on the planet.
The subspecies has been decimated by poachers. They are killed for their horns, which are highly prized in some parts of Asia, where it is claimed they have medicinal properties, according to AP.
Earlier in November, San Diego Zoo took possession of six female southern white rhinos from South Africa, and are working on developing northern white rhino embryos to implant in them as surrogate mothers. Researchers hope a northern white rhino calf could be born at San Diego Zoo within 10 to 15 years, AP said.