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Nola, a northern white rhino at San Diego Zoo's Safari Park, has died

Sad news from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park: Nola, the female northern white rhino, has died.

Her death leaves only three northern white rhinos in the world, all at a sanctuary in Kenya, protected from poachers by around-the-clock armed guards.

At 41, Nola was considered geriatric and had been battling a series of ailments, including a persistent abscess and bacterial infection. Last week she took a turn for the worse, becoming listless.

"In the past 24 hours Nola's condition had worsened significantly," according to a statement issued Sunday morning by the Safari Park. "Early this morning, the team made the difficult decision to euthanize her."

Nola came to Safari Park in 1989 from a zoo in what is now the Czech Republic and quickly became a favorite of the public and zookeepers.

"Nola was an iconic animal, not only at the Safari Park but worldwide," the statement said.

In December, Angalifu, a male northern white rhino, died at age 44 at the Safari Park of cancer.

The zoo's Institute for Conservation Research hopes to rescue the northern white rhino species from the brink of extinction, working with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and scientists at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla.

tony.perry@latimes.com

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