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White Rhino Numbers Dwindle to 6

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With the recent death of a northern white rhino, it looks as though the subspecies may be destined for extinction.

October 17th, 2014 was a sad day. Suni, a 34-year-old northern white rhino, was found dead on the Kenyan wildlife conservancy where he lived. While his caretakers do not yet know the specific cause of death, they are assured that it was not due to poaching.

He was one of the last seven northern white rhinos in the world. It is believed there are no longer any northern white rhinos surviving in the wild and all that remain are living in captivity.

Suni was one of only two breeding males left. Northern white rhinos are difficult to breed in captivity and is rarely successful. It is even more rare for the female to conceive and give birth.

But conservationists from Ol Pejeta Conservancy told CNN they won’t give up “in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf.”

If not, the subspecies is soon to be extinct.

Populations of the northern white rhino have been falling for years. At one point in time, the northern white rhino could be found in Uganda, Chad, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the major causes of population depletion has been the illegal slaughter by poachers who hunt the northern white for its horns.

Suni was born in captivity in 1980. He has mated in the past, but recent attempts have not been fruitful. The conservationists that worked with Suni were able to collect and freeze samples of his sperm before his death.

More from Wide Open Spaces:

Conservationists are injecting dye and toxins into rhinos’ horns to deter poachers

Black rhino takes helicopter ride to new home

Wild black rhino standoff is nail biting stuff [VIDEO]

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White Rhino Numbers Dwindle to 6