There are only two female northern white rhinos left on the planet. Therefore, scientists intend to apply the method of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to save this species from dying.
This method was used in the case of southern white rhinos, as a result of which the embryo was successfully implanted in a surrogate mother. The Guardian writes about it.
Northern white rhinos used to live in Central Africa, but poachers have decimated their population. Since then, two females – Fatu and Najin – have been under round-the-clock protection.
In 2018, the last male northern white rhinoceros died. It seemed that the disappearance was inevitable. However, a new development gives hope that the northern white rhinos will not disappear.
|Photo: Ami Vitale
An international team of researchers from BioRescue transferred two southern rhinoceros embryos to a surrogate mother in September 2023. However, the pregnant female died of infection when the fetus was 70 days old. Despite this, scientists believe that the occurrence of such a pregnancy is proof that the method works and can save the northern white rhino.
“This little baby is proof of everything. Sperm injection, insemination, liquid nitrogen, thawing – this has never been done for rhinos. It’s easier with humans, but here we’re working with a mammal weighing more than two tons.” – noted Thomas Hildebrandt, head of the BioRescue project and professor at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
By May or June 2024, scientists plan to implant the first northern white rhino embryo. They have already been created using sperm collected from already dead males and eggs taken from Fata. The cubs will be carried by a surrogate mother in Kenya. There are currently 30 embryos stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius in Berlin and Cremona.
The rhinoceros, which will carry the pregnancy for 16 months, will have the embryo injected through the anus. If all goes well, it will be the first northern white rhino born since 2000.
Researchers plan to transplant even more embryos to produce as many northern white rhino cubs as possible. However, if they are born, they will not be able to create a viable population. To do this, researchers will try to use gene “editing” to improve the genetic diversity of future offspring by taking genetic material from museum specimens.
“We will take genetic material from the skulls. Then we will use the gene editing method and place them in the population. We plan to visit all the museums with specimens of the northern white rhinoceros. It’s not just a science experiment, we really want to bring it back.” – noted Thomas Hildebrandt.
Erustus Kanga, director general of the Kenya Wildlife Service, said he was delighted with the breakthrough in saving the subspecies.
“This is a major milestone in the conservation of northern white rhinos,” – stressed Erustus Kanga.
Earlier we wrote that a rare rhino was born in the Czech zoo, which was named Kyiv.
Vira Shurmakevich, “UP. Life”
Read also: Passenger pigeon and moa: scientists say that since 1500, 73 species of animals have disappeared in the world