Scientists create embryos to save northern white rhinos

Posted by Leila Stein on 12 September 2019

Scientists in Italy have created two northern white rhino embryos in an attempt to save the species.

According to The Guardian, an international research team drew on IVF procedures using eggs from two remaining female rhinos and frozen sperm from dead males.

The northern white rhino used to be found in Uganda, the Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad. Extensive poaching has decimated the population with the last two remaining rhino’s living under 24-hour armed guard at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The surviving rhino’s, Najin and Fatu, are female but are unable to carry calves. The last male, Sudan, died at the same conservancy last year.

This groundbreaking process saw the two rhino’s undergo a highly risky procedure where they were anaesthetised and five of their eggs extracted.

These were then airlifted to the research team in Italy where they were fertilised, with only two of Fatu’s eggs developing into viable embryo’s.

The team plan to implant the embryo’s into a southern white rhino surrogate.

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to recover the northern white rhinos,” Richard Vigne, managing director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy told AFP. “We have a very long way to go and we must remember that, for most species facing extinction, the resources that are being dedicated to saving the northern whites simply don’t exist.

Global human behaviour still needs to radically change if the lessons of the northern white rhinos are to be learned.

Image source: KWS/Twitter

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