Scientists racing to save the northern white rhino say they’ve successfully created two embryos in the lab by using eggs from the last two remaining females and frozen sperm from deceased males.
“The embryos are now stored in liquid nitrogen to be transferred into a surrogate mother in the near future,” said Avantea, the Italian life sciences firm that has completed the in-vitro work.
That’s thrilling news to people who mourned the loss of Sudan in March 2018. He was the last living male northern white rhino, leaving them at the brink of extinction without scientific intervention.
Sudan, along with his daughter Najin and her daughter Fatu, lived at the Ol Pejeta conservation site in Kenya. The eggs were harvested from Najin and Fatu on August 22, leading to this new milestone.
“After ten days of incubation, two of Fatu’s eggs developed into viable embryos that were cryopreserved for future transfer,” said the scientific team led by Cesare Galli. “Najin’s eggs did not make it to a viable embryo despite the fact that one egg initiated segmentation.”
The guarded success was a welcome development for the staff at Ol Pejeta who had grieved over the loss of Sudan and potentially, the white rhino.
The successful egg collection was a joint effort that also included the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Dvůr Králové Zoo – where Najin and Fatu were born – and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Image: Ol Pejeta file