Tragedy as world’s oldest rhino ‘falls over and dies’ on his way to bed

The world’s oldest white rhino has died at the grand old age of 54 in a zoo after he fell over on his way to bed.

'Nonno Toby' ('Grandpa Toby' in English) sadly passed away on October 6, according to spokesperson Elisa Livia Pennacchioni from Parco Natura Viva in Veneto, Italy.

“He collapsed on the floor on the way back to his nighttime shelter, and after about half an hour, his heart stopped,” she said.

He was known for his kindness towards fellow zoo inhabitants and was given the adoring title of 'grandpa' because he often seemed to be 'looking after' some hippos and antelopes in his enclosure

The rhino had a popular online following in his home nation of Italy and beyond, and the news of his passing has seen some emotional responses on Twitter.

Some fans and public figures took to the site to share their memories of the big-hearted mammal.

Luca Zaia led tributes by recounting the rhino's friendships with fellow members of the animal kingdom.

He said: "For 46 years, every morning, he had come out of his stable in the Parco Natura Viva in Bussolengo, where his friends were waiting for him, in particular Popo, a young hippo who greeted him by biting his horn."

Italian Twitter user Sabrina Mora meanwhile tweeted: "He leaves us a gentle giant who has taken on the role of 'grandfather' for 14 little hippos and some nyala."

The nyala, one of Grandpa Toby's adopted kin, is a horned species of antelope native to southern Africa.

Toby is to be embalmed and displayed at the MuSe science museum in Trento. He will join Blanco, a famous white lion from the zoo who died five years ago, according to Ms Pennacchioni.

White rhinos normally live up to 40 years when held in captivity, and up to 30 years in the wild. They are one of the few species of rhino that is not listed as 'endangered', according to the WWF.

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