Couple gifts $1 million to San Diego Zoo conservation program

(Courtesy of San Diego Zoo Safari Park)

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Zoo announced Wednesday that Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison and his girlfriend, Nikita Kahn, have pledged a matching gift of up to $1 million to support a conservation program.

The money will fund the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy, which backs more than 140 conservation projects and partnerships in more than 80 countries. The beneficiaries are involved in trying to prevent illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking, among other things.

Kahn previously gave the zoo over $1 million to fund a 3.5-acre rhino rescue center at the Safari Park that now bears her name.

According to the zoo, she and Ellison have become interested in efforts to save the white rhino species. One named “Nola” was one of just four northern white rhinos left in the world when she died.

“Nola was a gentle giant with a heart of gold,” Kahn said.

“Sadly, today marks the two-year anniversary of Nola’s passing,” she said. “We’re committed to saving rhinos from extinction and very proud to be a part of this important effort to save these majestic animals.”

The Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center is home to six rescued southern white rhinos, brought to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park from private reserves in South Africa. Zoo officials hope that advances in reproduction and surrogacy techniques will help them restore their northern cousins.

The three remaining northern white rhinos unable to reproduce.

Southern white rhinos are considered “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.