Creating embryos to save endangered rhinos

The “functionally extinct” northern white rhino subspecies has hope for a revival when scientists successfully created three embryos.

The science group Biorescue on July 29 described in a press release how they collect rhino eggs in East Africa, then transport them to the Avantea laboratory in Italy for fertilization, embryo development and preservation. manage.

Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), a subspecies of white rhinoceros, is currently the most endangered animal with only two individuals left in the world at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Sanctuary in Kenya. The mother-daughter pair named Najin and Fatu are both females and are incapable of natural reproduction.

In this project, Biorescue collected a number of eggs from the baby rhinoceros Fatu and artificially inseminated them with offspring from two different dead males. The team’s efforts paid off with three successfully generated embryos.

Since neither Najin nor Fatu were able to carry a full-term pregnancy, their southern white rhino relative would be selected as a surrogate. Director of Ol Pejeta reserve Richard Vigne on June 30 shared with AFP that he believes in the project’s chances of success, even though challenges still lie ahead.

“Everybody understands that things are not easy. We are doing cutting edge things from a scientific perspective to solve the genetics of the last two northern white rhinos left on the planet. “, Vigne emphasized.

Since 2019, Biorescue has collected 80 eggs from Najin and Fatu to create embryos, but all embryos that have survived so far have been obtained from baby rhino eggs. Fatu is 21 years old this year while the mother rhino was born in 1989. Age has affected Najin’s ability to successfully create embryos.

The Northern White Rhino Revival Project is a transnational effort with scientists from Germany’s Leibniz institute, Kenya’s Wildlife service, Ol Pejeta reserve and Italy’s Avantea laboratory.

“It is encouraging that the project continues to make good progress, offering hope to save an iconic species from extinction,” Kenyan Tourism Minister Najib Balala congratulated the team on their success. new.

Rhinos in general have very few natural predators, but their numbers are still declining due to poaching. The northern white rhinoceros was formerly scattered throughout northwestern Uganda, southern Sudan, eastern Central African Republic and northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, with populations of more than 500 in the 1970s.


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