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Rare rhino’s remains to be donated to Smithsonian museum

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Nola, a rare northern white rhino, roamed around her habitat. (San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

SAN DIEGO — The body and horns of Nola, the northern white rhino that died at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Sunday, will be donated to the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., it was announced Tuesday.

Nola’s remains will be included in the museum’s research collections, maintained in an off-exhibit area with materials from other northern white rhinos, according to San Diego Zoo Global. They will be preserved so that scientists now and in the future can continue to study the species.

The 41-year-old rhino had been in a deteriorating medical condition, and took a significant turn for the worse Sunday morning. The park’s animal care team made the difficult decision to euthanize her, leaving just three non- reproductive northern white rhinos left in the world.

“Although Nola did not reproduce in her long lifetime, she touched the hearts of everyone who was fortunate enough to meet her,” said Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

“In that way, she contributed to our mission of saving the northern white rhino by demonstrating the intelligence and gentleness of her species,” Durrant said. “It is a great consolation to all who loved her that many of her tissues were collected and frozen for future research and assisted reproduction.”

She said the zoo is committed to help develop the technology needed to produce offspring from Nola’s preserved cells.

Tissue samples were collected after Nola’s death for banking and establishment of additional cell cultures for the Frozen Zoo, which stores animal material.

The Frozen Zoo also has genetic material from 11 other northern white rhinos, including cell cultures and semen from two male northern white rhinos.

However, no eggs were collected from Nola because of her advanced age. Her ovarian and uterine tissues were saved, according to the zoo.

The zoo’s institute is working on reproductive technology with The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla and the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Medicine in Berlin.

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