Historic Range:
Zaire, Sudan, Uganda, Central African Republic


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Habitat and Ecology

  • Terrestrial
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Source: IUCN


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Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment

Red List Category
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2abcd; B2ab(i,ii,iii,v); C1+2a(i,ii)b; D; E


Year Assessed

Emslie, R.

Knight, M.H. & Adcock , K.



The previous only confirmed wild population of the subspecies in the Garamba National Park and surrounding hunting areas in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo is now considered to have probably gone extinct. There have been no reported live sightings of any of the last four rhinos since 2006 or their signs since 2007 despite an intensive systematic ground search looking for rhinos and their signs in 2008. Additional aerial searches and field range patrols have also not found any remaining rhino although one carcass has been found. While there are reports of a small number possibly surviving in a remote area of Southern Sudan these have yet to be substantiated. The only four potentially breeding rhino that were in Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic have been moved to a private sanctuary in Kenya in the hope that the move to a more natural environment and natural diet and mixing with Southern White Rhino will encourage these animals to breed. However, due to a small effective founder number of only 1.71 (due to inter-relatedness of remaining animals) and based on Vortex modelling, in the absence of finding any additional rhino in the wild, this subspecies is highly unlikely to be viable in the longer term. Unless some more Northern White Rhino are found in the wild, it appears that the best that can currently be hoped for is to conserve as many adaptive Northern White Rhino genes as possible for eventual reintroduction back to the wild, but this will require inter-crossing with Southern White Rhino.

  • 2003
    Critically Endangered
    (IUCN 2003)
  • 2003
    Critically Endangered
  • 2002
    Critically Endangered
  • 1996
    Critically Endangered
  • 1994
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 06/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Zaire, Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic

Population detail:

Population location: Zaire, Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Ceratotherium simum cottoni , see its USFWS Species Profile


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Population Trend
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Northern white rhinoceros

The northern white rhinoceros, or northern square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), is one of the two subspecies of the white rhinoceros. Formerly found in several countries in East and Central Africa south of the Sahara, it is considered Critically endangered or Extinct in the Wild. This subspecies is a grazer in grasslands and savanna woodlands. As of December 2014, there are only five rhinos of this subspecies left. They all belong to the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic.[3]

After 2000, six northern white rhinoceros had lived in the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic but four of them (which were also the only reproductive animals of this subspecies) were transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Africa, in 2009,[4] where scientists hoped they would successfully breed and save this subspecies from extinction; one of the four died in October 2014. One of the two remaining in the Dvůr Králové Zoo died in late May 2011, making Nabire the only rhino there.[5] Another rhino presently lives at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park in California. A second rhino, Angalifu, also lived at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park and died in December 2014.

Following the phylogenetic species concept, recent research has suggested the northern white rhinoceros may be an altogether different species, rather than a subspecies of white rhinoceros, in which case the correct scientific name for the former is Ceratotherium cottoni. Distinct morphological and genetic differences suggest the two proposed species have been separated for at least a million years.[6]

Wild population[edit]

The northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) formerly ranged over parts of northwestern Uganda, southern South Sudan, the eastern part of Central African Republic, and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.[7] Their range possibly extended as far west as Lake Chad, into Chad and Cameroon.[citation needed]

In 2006, there were only four northern white rhinos left in the wild, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.[8] However, in June 2008 it was reported that the subspecies could be extinct in the wild since none of these four known remaining individuals had been seen since 2006.[9]

Poachers reduced their population from 500 to 15 in the 1970s and 1980s. From the early 1990s through mid-2003, the population recovered to more than 32 animals. Surveys in 2000 indicated the population had started recovering, with 30 animals confirmed in 2000, and possibly six others.[10] Since mid-2003, poaching had intensified and reduced the wild population to only 5 to 10 animals (7 as of 2007).[11] Four rhinos living in Garamba National Park were the last known wild northern white rhinos; they have not been seen in recent years and it is feared they have been killed.[12] If confirmed, this would make the northern white rhino extinct in the wild apart from the last-chance efforts by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to reintroduce it in a wild state. Indeed, as of 2011, the total number of northern white rhinos on the planet is reported to be five males and two females (3 in captivity and 4 in conservancy).[13]

On 28 November 2009, two Russian helicopter pilots had seen Northern White Rhinos in southern Sudan.[14] It is probable that the three rhinoceroses that were spotted belong to this subspecies, as other rhinoceroses have not been living in the area for a long time.[15]

Garamba National Park[edit]

The last surviving population of wild northern white rhinos was in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In January 2005, the government of the DRC approved a two-part plan for five northern white rhinos to be moved from Garamba National Park to a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. The second part commits the government and its international partners to increase conservation efforts in Garamba, so the northern white rhinos can be returned when it is safe again.[16] The translocation did not occur, due to the death of the remaining animals.

In August 2005, ground and aerial surveys conducted under the direction of African Parks Foundation and the African Rhino Specialist Group (ARSG) had only found four animals, a solitary adult male and a group of one adult male and two adult females.[16] In June 2008, it was reported that the species may have gone extinct in the wild, since none of these four known remaining individuals had been seen since 2006.[12][17]

Ol Pejeta Conservancy[edit]

A northern white rhinoceros near the equator during translocation to Ol Pejeta Conservancy Photo:Michael Dalton-Smith
One of four northern white rhinos translocated to Ol Pejeta is now living in a semiwild state. Photo:Michael Dalton-Smith

The zoo population is declining, and northern whites have rarely reproduced in captivity. Four of the six rhinos from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic (which are also the only reproductive animals of this subspecies) were transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Africa.[18] They arrived at the conservancy after an air and road trip on 20 December 2009.[19]

The four rhinos (2 male and 2 female), under constant watch by specialists and staff, lived in specially constructed bomas with access to a 400 x 400 metre paddock area, allowing them to acclimatize to their new surroundings. These four were:[20]

  • Sudan, a 35-year-old male (as of 2009), who was caught from the wild in Sudan at 3 years old.
  • Suni, a male, was born in captivity in 1980. He had mated while in zoos. Some of his sperm has been collected and frozen. On 17 October 2014, he died from natural causes, probably old age.[21][22]
  • Najin, a female, was born in captivity in 1989. She is Suni's half-sister and mother of Fatu.
  • Fatu, a female, was born in captivity in 2000. She is the daughter of Najin.

To prevent any unnecessary injuries they might inflict on each other while interacting in their fenced area, and give their horns an opportunity to regrow to a natural shape (as their front horns had grown bent by much rubbing against enclosure bars in captivity), all four rhinos were sedated and their horns were sawn off. This also made them less vulnerable to the poaching that drove their species to near extinction, as the horn is what the poachers are after. In place of their horns, radio transmitters have been installed to allow closer monitoring of their whereabouts.[23]

Since May 2010, one of the northern white rhino males[which?] was moved from the initial holding pens to a much larger 700-acre (2.8 km2) semiwild enclosure. There he roams among many African animals, including several southern white rhino females and many plains animals. On 26 October 2011, the females were coaxed into the larger enclosure. Because Najin was overly protective of her daughter Fatu's chance at mating, one of the two moved back into the smaller enclosure two weeks later.[citation needed]

Until 2011, the progress of this attempt at saving the northern white rhinoceros was documented on the initiative's website;[24] and their life in Ol Pejeta Conservancy is commented on on the Conservancy's website. Several documentaries are in the works, including an episode of Ol Pejeta Diaries entitled "Return of the African Titans" for Oasis HD Canada fall 2010, and a follow-up half-hour episode to follow. This translocation is also the subject of a BBC Last Chance to See special entitled "Return of the Rhino",[25] presented by Stephen Fry and the zoologist Mark Carwardine; the TV program reported at the end that the two pairs of rhinos were "flirting".

On 25 April 2012 and on 27 May 2012 Suni and Najin mated.[26] Pregnancy of the female rhinos was monitored weekly.[27] Rhinoceros gestation period takes 16 to 18 months,[28] so in January 2014 the Conservancy considered Najin not pregnant, and a male southern white rhino from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy was put to Najin and Fatu enclosure in Ol Pejeta to at least intercross the subspecies. To achieve this, both female northern white rhinos were separated from their male counterparts, which prevents them, for the time being, from producing a pure northern white rhino offspring.[29][30]

On 18 October 2014, The Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced the death of Suni from unknown causes. At his death, Suni was one of only two breeding males known to exist. The Conservancy has ruled out poaching as the cause of death, and veterinarians planned to perform a full post mortem as soon as possible.[31]

Captive population[edit]

The fully captive northern white rhino population consists of only two animals, and is maintained in two zoological institutions in the U.S.A. and the Czech Republic.

Dvůr Králové Zoo[edit]

A northern white rhinoceros with an Einiosaurus-like horn at the ZOO Dvůr Králové

In 1970' the Dvůr Králové Zoo, located in Dvůr Králové nad Labem, Czech Republic, got six northern white rhinos from Sudan. The zoo is the only one in the world where northern white rhinos produced offsprings; the current population are descendants of these six rhinos.[3][32]

The Dvůr Králové Zoo has a female named Nabire, born at the zoo on 15 November 1983. Her mother, Nasima, and father, Sudan, were both northern white rhino (C. s. cottoni).[33] Jan Stejskal, a projects coordinator at the zoo, stated, "She was not translocated to Kenya because she is no longer capable of breeding naturally. But it seems she has one healthy ovary and this could provide us with material from which to create an embryo in artificial conditions."[34] Efforts to do so began in autumn 2014.[35]

Former residents include:

  • Suni, a male born at Dvůr Králové Zoo in 1980. Died on 17 October 2014
  • Nesari, a female wild born at Shambe, Sudan, on 19 September 1972, died in 2011.
  • Nasi, a female born at Dvůr Králové Zoo on 11 November 1977, died in 2008.
  • Saut, a male wild born at Shambe in Sudan on 19 September 1972, died in August 2006,[36] age 33.

Dvůr Králové Zoo was also home to four other northern white rhinoceros, two males and two females, which were transferred to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on 19 December 2009[37] in a joint effort by the zoo, Fauna and Flora International, Back to Africa, Lewa, and Kenya Wildlife Service. It was the only zoo in which northern white rhinos produced offspring; the last calf was born in 2000.[34] Hoping to stimulate the rhinos' sexual appetite, the zoo decided to send them back into their natural habitat in Kenya. The agreement with the Kenyan government expects the rhinos never to be returned to the Czech Republic.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park[edit]

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park in San Diego, California, had three northern white rhinos,[11][38] which were wild-caught. They currently have a female named Nola (b. 1974, on loan since 1989 from Zoo Dvůr Králové). Nola is not fertile. Another female, named Nadi, who was on loan from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, died on 30 May 2007.[38] A male named Angalifu (b. 1974, on loan from 1990 from Khartoum Zoo in Khartoum) died on 14 December 2014.[39][40]

The San Diego Wild Animal Park provided Angalifu's semen to female rhinos at the Dvůr Králové Zoo but the insemination attempts were unsuccessful. The only reproductive animals of this subspecies were transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.


  1. ^ "A northern white rhino has died. There are now five left in the entire world.". Washington Post. 2014-12-15. 
  2. ^ Emslie, R. (2011). "Ceratotherium simum ssp. cottoni". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  3. ^ a b http://www.novinky.cz/domaci/360494-kralovedvorska-zoo-spousti-unikatni-projekt-na-zachranu-vzacnych-nosorozcu.html
  4. ^ Northern White Rhinos olpejetaconservancy.org
  5. ^ Johnston, Raymond (2 June 2011). "White rhino dies in Czech zoo, seven left worldwide". Czech Position. 
  6. ^ Groves, C.P.; Fernando, P; Robovský, J (2010). "The Sixth Rhino: A Taxonomic Re-Assessment of the Critically Endangered Northern White Rhinoceros". PLoS ONE 5 (4): e9703. Bibcode:2010PLoSO...5.9703G. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009703. PMC 2850923. PMID 20383328. 
  7. ^ Sydney, J. (1965). "The past and present distribution of some African ungulates". Transactions of the Zoological Society of London 3: 1–397. doi:10.1017/S0030605300006815. 
  8. ^ "Northern White Rhino". Worldwildlife.org. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  9. ^ Smith, Lewis (17 June 2008). "News | Environment | Poachers kill last four wild northern white rhinos". The Times (London). Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  10. ^ Smith, Kes Hillman (July–December 2001). "Status of northern white rhinos and elephants in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of the Congo, during the wars". Pachyderm journal of the African Elephant, African Rhino and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups 31: 79–81. 
  11. ^ a b International Rhino Foundation. 2002. Rhino Information – Northern White Rhino. 19 September 2006
  12. ^ a b Smith, Lewis (17 June 2008) Poachers kill last four wild northern white rhinos. timesonline.co.uk.
  13. ^ Jabr, Ferris (5 September 2011) "Stem cells could pull rhinos back from the brink", New Scientist.
  14. ^ An alternative approach to species conservation. Back to Africa (20 December 2009). Retrieved on 7 April 2013.
  15. ^ V Súdánu objevili téměř vyhynulé bílé nosorožce. Novinky.cz (3 January 2010). Retrieved on 7 April 2013.
  16. ^ a b IUCN. (25 January 2005). Reprieve planned for Garamba's rhinos: extra efforts promised to safeguard their homeland. Gland, Switzerland.
  17. ^ Skinner, J.D. and Smithers, R.H.N. (1990). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion, Cambridge University Press, p. 567, ISBN 0521844185.
  18. ^ Northern White Rhinos olpejetaconservancy.org
  19. ^ Northern White Rhinos Arrive on Ol Pejeta, Ol Pejeta Conservancy website, Saturday, 23 December 2009
  20. ^ Last chance for world’s rarest rhino as 4 are released into the wild. Wildlife Extra News.
  21. ^ {https://www.thedodo.com/community/FrontierGap/death-of-a-conservation-icon-784793327.html
  22. ^ http://www.novinky.cz/zahranicni/svet/351215-vzacny-nosorozec-suni-sesel-starim.html
  23. ^ Northern White Rhinos Progress, Ol Pejeta Conservancy (15 January 2010).
  24. ^ "Last Chance to Save the Northern White Rhino" (2014) Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
  25. ^ "Return of the Rhino". BBC, 2010, first aired on 31 October 2010, on BBC 2 (UK).
  26. ^ Hope for the northern white rhinos Suni and Najin mate; Twice!. olpejetaconservancy.org (11 June 2012).
  27. ^ Meeting the Northern white rhinos – Al Jazeera Blogs. Blogs.aljazeera.com (4 January 2013). Retrieved on 7 April 2013.
  28. ^ "A Day in the Life of a Northern White Rhino" (11 June 2013) Ol Pejeta Conservancy
  29. ^ "Ol Pejeta’s Northern White Rhinos to Embark on Plan B" (7 January 2014) Ol Pejeta Conservancy
  30. ^ "Male Southern White Rhino Introduced in Endangered Species Boma" (12 February 2014) Ol Pejeta Conservancy
  31. ^ http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/10/19/357356495/one-of-seven-white-rhinos-left-in-the-world-dies-in-kenya
  32. ^ http://www.olpejetaconservancy.org/sites/default/files/NWR_FAQ_FINAL.pdf
  33. ^ Last Chance to Survive: Northern White Rhino Conservation Project
  34. ^ a b Lazarová, Daniela (25 September 2014). "Dvůr Králové Zoo spearheading international efforts to save northern white rhino from extinction". Radio Prague. Archived from the original on 26 September 2014. 
  35. ^ "Zoo se snaží rozmnožit nosorožce, samici Nabiré zavěsili na jeřáb". Mladá fronta DNES (in Czech). 8 October 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  36. ^ The Rhino Resource Center – Rhino Images. Rhinoresourcecenter.com. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.
  37. ^ Four of the World's Last Known Eight Northern White Rhinos Come Home to Africa, Ol Pejeta website, Saturday, 19 December 2009
  38. ^ a b Eastman, Q. (2007) Northern white rhinos in danger. North County Times (11 June 2007) via Web Archive.
  39. ^ "A northern white rhino has died. There are now five left in the entire world.". Washington Post. 2014-12-15. 
  40. ^ Holečková, Dana and Tomášová, Kristina. "Narodí se ve Dvoře Králové nejvzácnější mládě roku 2000?" [Expecting the Rarest Offspring of the Year 2000]. p. 184. 
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