Learn more about the pioneering work to keep the nearly extinct northern white rhino subspecies alive – by in vitro fertilization.
When northern white rhinos became extinct in the wild, in 2008 it was difficult to imagine their survival in the future. However, science has given these animals one more chance. To clarify, an international consortium of scientists and conservationists working to stop the extinction of these animals, announced the production of two new embryos.
Northern white rhino embryos were produced using assisted reproductive technologies. Currently, there is no known living male and neither of the two northern white rhinos remaining on earth (a mother and daughter living in Kenya – Fatu and Najin) can become pregnant.
In this way, scientists are rushing to save the most endangered mammal in the world through in vitro fertilization. White rhinos have roamed parts of Africa before being hunted to near extinction. But now, Fatu and Najin are the last of their kind and live under constant surveillance on a reservation in Kenya.
To save the species, scientists recently harvested the eggs from the mother and daughter. They combined the eggs with the northern male white rhino sperm collected before they died. Since Najin and Fatu are infertile, the embryos will be placed in a surrogate mother.
Even with the death of the last white rhino male in Sudan back in March 2018 there is still hope to save the species. Scientists were able to collect seamen from the rhinos and safely store it until fertilization techniques have advanced enough to be able to use it on the last remaining two female white rhinos.
The hope is that scientists will be able to breed a herd of around fifteen animals that will be able to one day return back to their natural habitat on the plains of Africa. But this is no small task, it could take many years to achieve this goal.
Decades of poaching have strongly affected rhino species. Animals are killed for their horns, which have long been used as a material for sculpting and valued in traditional Chinese medicine for their supposed healing properties.
Maybe one day in the future poaching will cease and the animals will be allowed to roam Africa free from hunters.