San Diego Zoo Safari Park has lost another white rhino called Chuck. The rhino, a southern white rhino, became a household name after being the companion of Nola. Nola, who also died three years ago, was one of the world’s last northern white rhinoceroses.
Chuck spent his last days in the safari, which dedicated a 65-acre enclosure to the rhinoceroses.
Nola and Chuck’s story is romantic even from a human perspective. The two bonded while in the enclosure, with the lead keeper stating that the two were like an elderly couple that became friends later in life.
Chuck was known and loved by visitors who traveled to the zoo to see the rare white rhino. Chuck’s keepers remember him as a clever rhino that always needed to be watched closely. Full of personality, Chuck was known to wander off when no one was watching him and open gates.
San Diego Zoo Park Safari is home to 16 southern white rhinos. There are 20,000 white rhinos in the world, making them nowhere near as endangered as their northern counterparts. Nola’s death, caused by euthanization in her early 40s, left the world’s northern white rhino population at a mere three.
The zoo is left with two males and 14 females.
Chuck’s health quickly began deteriorating in recent weeks, with keepers being forced to euthanize him as a result. He lived to an estimated age of 50. White rhinos have an expected lifespan of 40 – 50 years, so both Nola and Chuck lived a long life.
The zoo is performing a necropsy on Chuck. The initial findings show that he was suffering from several ailments related to old age, including arthritis. The findings show that Chuck lived a painful life in his elderly years, with arthritis making it painful to walk.
Chuck was born in the wild and came to the zoo in 1996. Zookeepers believe that he was born in the late 60s, allowing him to spend over 25 years in the wild.
Chuck’s infamous curiosity led him to wander around the enclosure, popping open gates and fences with his horn. Zookeepers had to build gates that were “Chuck-proof.” He had a knack for taking things apart.
White rhinos live in the plains, while their black rhino counterparts live in forests. Life in the plains makes the white rhino less excitable since they have no risk of being ambushed. Nola was so friendly that she loved to have staff scratch her back.
The bloodline of Chuck lives on. He has fathered 14 offspring, with most being sent to other conservation parks and zoos. Some of his offspring still remain at the San Diego zoo. Nola and Chuck, despite their devotion and love for each other, never resulted in a birth.
Chuck left his comfort zone after Nola’s death by living with other rhinos at the zoo.
Nola’s death left a lasting impact on the zoo because of the species being nearly extinct. The zoo has frozen Nola’s tissues and plans on leading a project to revive the species using the stem cells from Nola and other northern white rhinos.