Researchers have successfully created an embryo of the highly endangered northern white rhino in a bid to save the species from extinction.
According to Readers Digest, there are only two northern white rhinos left, both of which are female and are currently being held in captivity. That number might be about to increase thanks to the work done by a team of scientists and conservationists.
According to a statement from the team, this embryo is only the third to be created by researchers and was done by implanting sperm from a dead male northern white rhino into the egg taken from one of the remaining female white rhinos. The embryo will be stored in liquid nitrogen and be transferred into the surrogate mother in the coming months.
The goal of this project is to eventually create a herd of at least five northern rhinos that will be returned back to their natural habitat. However, seeing as the gestation period for white rhinos can last as long as 16 to 18 months, it could be a while before we see this plan come to fruition.
Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) said in its statement that their mission is to examine evolutionary adaptations of wildlife to global change and develop new concepts and measures for the conservation of biodiversity. #northernwhiterhino pic.twitter.com/yioqoRN7fv
— Ministry of Tourism & Wildlife-Kenya (@Min_TourismKE) January 15, 2020
“It’s amazing to see that we will be able to reverse the tragic loss of this subspecies through science,” said Kenya’s wildlife minister, Najib Balala, in the statement by the Kenya Wildlife Service and conservationists from Kenya, the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy.
Nijin and daughter Fatu are the two remaining white rhinos in captivity and live under 24-hour surveillance by armed guards. The eggs used to create the embryos where harvested from 19-year old Fatu.
Development of embryos from Fatu’s eggs. (image by C.Galli / Avantea)
“Five years ago, it seemed like the production of a northern white rhino embryo was an almost unachievable goal – and today we have them.’ said Jan Stejskal, communications director at the Dvur Kralove Zoo.