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Scientists Hope To Breed Another Northern White Rhino Through In Vitro Fertilization 

by Tod Perry

March 22, 2018
Photo by Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/Getty Images.

THE GOOD NEWS:

Scientists may be able to bring the northern white rhinoceros back from extinction through in vitro fertilization.

 

March 19, 2018, was a sad day for conservationists. Sudan, the last living northern white rhinoceros, was put down after complications from multiple infections at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He is survived by his daughter, Najin, and granddaughter, Fatu.

The northern white rhino saw a decline in numbers due to poachers, habitat destruction, and war.

A century ago, there were over 500,000 rhinos living across Africa; now all but two species are on the endangered list. In 1960, there were approximately 2,000 northern white rhinos, but the species today is down to its final two females.

“Sudan was the last northern white rhino that was born in the wild. His death is a cruel symbol of human disregard for nature, and it saddened everyone who knew him,” Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at the Dvur Králové Zoo, told Agence France-Presse.

But don’t count the northern white rhino out just yet. 

Conservationists have saved the sperm from Sudan and three other deceased males. Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, hopes to harvest eggs from Najin and Fatu, fertilize them, and implant them into southern white rhino surrogates (Najin and Fatu are too old to carry a child).

Although the offspring would be genetically similar, it’s the last chance for the species to come back from the brink of extinction. 

“It’s going to be a long process, but it’s an incredible story in scientific study and analysis,” said Oliver Ryder, director of conservation genetics at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, told The New York Times. “And the backdrop, of course, is the imminent extinction of this form of rhinoceros.”

Share image via ​Jean-Christophe Verhaegen/Getty Images.

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Scientists Hope To Breed Another Northern White Rhino Through In Vitro Fertilization