Wildlife experts at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya were thrilled to hear the news Wednesday that scientists, working to save the nearly extinct northern white rhino, found a breakthrough in their search to develop an embryo suitable for assisted reproduction.
Scientists at Avantea announced that their technique for developing the embryo was successful and promises the possibility of implanting the cells in a closely-linked surrogate species. They used northern white rhino sperm and a southern white rhino egg to achieve their goal, which was reported in the journal Nature.
Ol Pejeta is the home of Fatu and Najin, the last living northern white rhino females. In March, the world was saddened by the loss of Sudan, their male counterpart, who was the last of his breed on the planet.
“Thanks to the continued dedication from scientists, conservationists and philanthropists across the world however, the miracle of their renaissance may now actually become a reality,” the conservatory said.
In the next stage, the Ol Pejeta team hopes that eggs taken from the two aging females can be fertilized with sperm taken from deceased males to create a viable northern white rhino that survives.
Ol Pejeta described the loss of Sudan as a “human fail of epic proportions” driven by irresponsibility and greed. Conflict, poaching and habitat loss driven by human activity have eliminated the northern white rhino.
The last remaining wild population made up of 20-30 rhinos in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were lost to fighting in the region during the 1990s and early 2000s, and followed the rhino’s demise in Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan and Chad.
Sudan lived in Kenya with Najin and Fatu from 2009 until his death, after the animals came from Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic.
Image: Ol Pejeta file