Beloved rhinoceros dies at San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido

A southern white rhinoceros known as Chuck at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has died.
(Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has lost one of its most renowned residents, a southern white rhinoceros called Chuck.

He was best-known as the longtime companion of Nola, one of the world’s last remaining northern white rhinos when she died in 2015. Both gentle in temperament, the two rhinos bonded, following each other around in their 65-acre enclosure.

“They are like the elderly couple who met late in life and became friends,” lead keeper Jane Kennedy said of Chuck and Nola in 2015.


Chuck also needed keeping an eye on. The clever rhino became famous for his ability to open gates.

Nola was euthanized in late 2015, leaving just three of her kind in the world. She was in her early 40s; the lifespan of all white rhinos is estimated at 40 to 50.

Chuck’s species is not in immediate danger. The southern white rhino population is estimated at 20,000. The Safari Park has 16 other southern white rhinos, two males and 14 females.

Chuck recently endured a significant decline in health, said Andy Blue, associate curator of mammals at the Safari Park. Last Friday, keepers decided there was no choice but to euthanize Chuck. His age was estimated at nearly 50.

A necropsy is being performed, Blue said. The initial findings are that Chuck had various age-associated ailments, especially arthritis, which made walking painful.

Fikes writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.