One of the last two northern white rhinos retired from breeding effort

Posted by Anita Froneman on 22 October 2021

One of the last two remaining northern white rhinos in the world, Najin, has been retired from the scientific breeding programme that was launched in the hopes of preventing the species from going extinct.

READ: Scientific reproduction could save northern white rhino from extinction

A caretaker with Najin.

This decision was made on ethical grounds, and took into consideration her advanced age of 32 years. ‘Retiring one individual from a conservation programme because of animal welfare considerations is usually not a question to think about for long… but when one individual is 50 percent of your population, you consider this decision several times,’ said head veterinarians Frank Göritz and Stephen Ngulu according to the BBC.

The research team leading the scientific processes, BioRescue, harvested egg cells from the two females and fertilised them in a laboratory with sperm from the last males (harvested before they died in 2018). Both Najin and her daughter Fatu proved infertile, and so scientists hope to have the embryos carried by southern white rhino surrogates. Eggs will still be harvested from Fatu, while Najin remains under care and will continue to be involved in other ways, like providing samples for stem cell research.

The scientists have set themselves a deadline and are looking at birthing a rhino calf in the next two to three years, and 15 to 20 years to have an entirely new population.

Najin and Fatu are under armed guard in Kenya.

The southern white rhino population is estimated at 20,000 individuals.

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