Nearly-extinct white rhino undergoes hip procedure


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

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SAN DIEGO – Nola, a critically endangered 41-year-old northern white rhinoceros, underwent a medical procedure earlier Thursday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Veterinarians performed the procedure to determine the cause of swelling in her right hip.

The elderly animal, already being treated for age-related issues, was treated for an abscess on the same hip in May of this year. At that time, Nola was placed on a regimen of wound flushing and antibiotics, and the abscess had appeared to heal.

Last week, keepers noticed the abscess had reemerged and Nola also had swelling around her hip bone, causing concern for the animal.

“It appears the original abscess sealed itself off without completely healing, but we need to investigate further,” Dr. Jeff Zuba, senior veterinarian, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “Until we receive these test results, we will start her on antibiotics based on culture results obtained last week and provide daily wound care, while monitoring her closely.”

While the veterinary team performed the biopsy in her barn habitat, Nola was given mild sedation, allowing her to remain awake. Nola was rewarded with her favorite treats of apples and alfalfa.

Zookeepers plan to release her back into her 65-acre field habitat early Friday. Keepers report that while the abscessed area is sore to the touch, Nola appears to be feeling well, and is eating and walking normally.

Test results from today should be available within seven to ten days.

Nola is one of just four northern white rhinos remaining in the world. Three other northern white rhinos are under human care in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. Northern white rhinos are at the brink of extinction due to poaching for their horn.

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