A subspecies of white rhino has been saved from extinction after conservationists successfully impregnated a rhino with an embryo transfer. This is the first time this method has been successful. The rhino, named Curra, was able to develop a 2.5-inch male embryo during her pregnancy, which lasted between 16 and 18 months. Unfortunately, Curra died when she was 70 days pregnant due to poisoning from an infection with Clostridia, a bacteria present in the soil that can be fatal for animals. Scientists have found an effective and viable method to save the species.
The researchers created a southern white rhino embryo in a laboratory from an egg and sperm previously collected from other specimens and transferred it to a surrogate mother of the same subspecies in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy of Kenya on September 24, 2023. The head of the project, Thomas Hildebrandt, declared that they have achieved something that was thought impossible. The success of the embryo transfer and pregnancy are a proof of concept and allows researchers to now safely move on to northern white rhino embryo transfer, a key step in the mission to save the northern white rhino from extinction. About 20,000 southern white rhinoceroses remain in Africa. This subspecies, like the black rhinoceros, is recovering from a sharp decline in its populations due to poaching for its horns. However, there are only two known examples of the northern white rhinoceros in the world.
Najin, a 34-year-old specimen, and her calf, Fatu, 23, are unable to reproduce naturally, according to the Ol-Pejeta Conservancy where they live. Both are female. The last male white rhino, Sudan, was 45 years old when he was euthanized in 2018 due to age-related complications. He was Najin’s father. Scientists saved his semen and that of four other dead rhinos in the hope of using it for in vitro fertilization of eggs extracted from females of the same subspecies to produce embryos that would be carried to term by female white rhinos. In addition, live cells from twelve different northern white rhinos are stored in liquid nitrogen. Some conservation groups argue that it may be too late to save the northern white rhino with this technique, while its natural habitat in Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and the Central African Republic have been devastated by conflict. Skeptics say that efforts should focus on other endangered species with a better chance of survival. This will be the transfer of the famous giraffe ‘Benito’: he will leave the cold and loneliness behind.
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Environment, Science, Agriculture