Zookeepers monitor sick, rare white rhino

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SAN DIEGO -- One of the five northern white rhinoceroses remaining in the world was being monitored Monday by veterinarians at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park after displaying reduced appetite and activity levels over the weekend.

“All mammals can get the same kind of sicknesses we do, they can get cancer, catch a flu, catch a cold," said head keeper, Jane Kennedy.

“She was taking some medications which are already helping her feel better. She is up walking around right now and were doing what we can to keep her happy.”

The population of the northern white rhino was lowered by one with the Dec. 14 death of a 44-year-old male at the park named Angalifu.

Safari Park officials said Nola, 40, displayed behavioral changes and a thick nasal discharge Saturday, but appeared to be doing better today, when associate veterinarian Meredith Clancy took a mucus swab from her nostrils.

“Today we collected samples of Nola's nasal discharge to submit for culture to see if there is any fungus or bacteria growing, and also allowing us to look at cells to see what might be causing Nola's illness," Clancy said. “One of our main concerns is Nola's comfort level. We will continue to monitor her round-the-clock and hope her health improves."

Nola was also given an injection of antibiotics to ward off any possible infection, and a blood sample was taken.

Nola, who is already being treated for age-related arthritis, has been moved to a heated enclosure inside her Asian Plains field exhibit to provide her comfort from the chilly weather and allow the animal care team to keep close watch over her.

Keepers reported that she appeared to be improving slightly, eating again and gaining some mobility.

Of the four other northern white rhinos, three are at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and one is in the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. They are all at an advanced age and have not been able to breed, according to the Safari Park.

Conservation groups blame the low numbers of the species on poaching for its horn.


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