According to a statement from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, Suni, a 34-year-old northern white rhino passed away last week. He was one of two breeding males left in the world and lived in the conservancy until he died from yet undetermined causes.
The surviving members of the rare species are all currently living in captivity with no other known ones in the wild, where they have been poached to a very near extinction. The other kind of white rhino, the southern white rhino, is doing a little better with 20,000 animals still alive in the wild.
Both kinds of rhinos are an easy target for poachers because they travel in herds and are non-aggressive creatures.
Stuart Pimm, a conservation ecologist at Duke University, warned National Geographic, however, that their killings won’t just deprive the world of an amazing, peaceful creature but affect the whole ecosystem since they keep certain plants in check.
“It’s not just another charismatic animal — it’s also a species that has a very clear ecological role, and we need to be very worried that we have lost that,” he said.