Image Source: https://www.abc.net.au/
Scientists say they have successfully extracted eggs from the last two remaining northern white rhinos, a step on the way to possibly saving the subspecies from extinction.
- The harvest in Kenya was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic
- The eggs were flown to Italy to be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm
- The last male northern white rhino died in March 2018
Ten eggs were harvested from the female rhinos, named Najin and Fatu, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
The scientists hope to use them to create viable embryos that can be transferred into surrogates, as neither of the donor rhinos can carry a pregnancy to term.
“The ovum pick-up went smoothly and without any complications,” the team, which consists of experts from Germany and the Czech Republic, said in a statement.
The harvested eggs — the third round to be taken from the two females since August 2019 — were immediately flown to the Avantea laboratory in Italy to be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from now-deceased northern white rhino bulls.
Three embryos were created from the previously extracted eggs.
The next step is to select female southern white rhinos, another rhino subspecies, at Ol Pejeta to serve as surrogate mothers.
The last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died in March 2018.
A copy of his genetic material was taken on the day of his death.
Work to keep northern white rhinos from dying out depends on perfecting in-vitro fertilisation techniques and keeping the remaining two females alive.
While there are thousands of southern white rhinos still roaming the plains of sub-Saharan Africa, decades of rampant poaching drastically cut northern white rhino numbers.