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Saving the Northern White Rhino

The San Diego Zoo and a sanctuary in Kenya are teaming up to save the northern white rhino by in-vitro fertilisation from extinction

Quelle:: San Diego Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and DPA

Rhino caretaker Mohammed Doyo caresses 25-year-old female northern white rhino 'Najin' at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Nanyuki, some 200km north of Nairobi, Kenya, 18 February 2015
Rhino caretaker Mohammed Doyo caresses 25-year-old female northern white rhino 'Najin' at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Nanyuki, some 200km north of Nairobi, Kenya, 18 February 2015

Last week, the San Diego Zoo, in conjunction with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, announced a plan to save the northern white rhino from extinction by assisted reproduction.

Currently, there are only four individuals left of that rhino subspecies.

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world, feeding at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Nanyuki, Kenya, 23 May 2015. His horn has been cut off to deter poachers.
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in the world, feeding at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Nanyuki, Kenya, 23 May 2015. His horn has been cut off to deter poachers.
EPA

As the four aging rhinos are not capable of natural reproduction, the plan is to perform rhino in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) that will allow the transfer of a northern white rhino embryo to a southern white rhino surrogate mother.

Southern white rhino with a newborn baby, San Diego Zoo, US, 16 October 2015
Southern white rhino with a newborn baby, San Diego Zoo, US, 16 October 2015
San Diego Zoo

Scientists hope that the gathered egg cells and semen from the last northern white rhinos would allow for the reintroduction of the subspecies, even after their demise.

It will be the first time that egg cells are extracted from female rhinos.

The world's northern white rhino population drastically dropped from 2 000 rhinos in 1960 to only 25 by 1998, due to poaching, habitat destruction and civil unrest.

Rhino caretaker Mohammed Doyo feeds 25-year-old female northern white rhinocero, Najin, and her companion southern white rhinocero (left), Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, 18 February 2015
Rhino caretaker Mohammed Doyo feeds 25-year-old female northern white rhinocero, Najin, and her companion southern white rhinocero (left), Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, 18 February 2015
EPA

The last male northern white rhino, named Sudan, is under 24-hour armed protection, together with the two females Nahin and Fatu, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.  

The San Diego Safari Park is home to the fourth one, the female Nola.  

Two of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy northern white rhinos, Nanyuki, Kenya
Two of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy northern white rhinos, Nanyuki, Kenya
Ol Pejeta Conservancy

 

Update, 23 November 2015, 2.29 GMT:

Nola, the 41-year old female at the San Diego Zoo in California, was euthanised on Sunday, 22 November, after her health took a turn for the worse.

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