Scientists are trying to save the white rhino subspecies: there are only two of them on the planet
Scientists conducted the world’s first artificial insemination of rhinos. Now there are chances to save the northern white rhino subspecies, of which there are only two individuals left on the planet.
This was reported by the BBC. Journalists noted that once northern white rhinos roamed throughout central Africa, but the wild population was destroyed by poachers. They hunted animals for their horn.
Now there are only two northern white rhinos left in the world. These are two females: 30-year-old Najin and her 19-year-old daughter Fatu. Both are protected in the Ol Pageta Game Reserve in Kenya.
Technically, the subspecies is considered extinct, because there are no males among the living individuals, so they cannot reproduce. But scientists of the German Biorescue project are trying to save the species with the help of artificial insemination.
Experiments began with a closely related subspecies – southern white rhinos. They number in the thousands and are considered an example of successful conservation activities, although they are still threatened by illegal hunting.
After several years of work and 13 fertilization attempts, scientists achieved the first viable pregnancy of southern white rhinos. An embryo from the egg of a female from a zoo in Belgium was fertilized with the sperm of a male from Austria, and then implanted into a southern white female in Kenya. She got pregnant. 70 days after the start of the pregnancy, the surrogate mother died after contracting bacteria. However, scientists still believe that their experiment can be effective further: at the time of the death of the surrogate mother, the 6.5-centimeter male fetus was developing well and had a 95% chance of being born alive.
Artificial insemination will be tried again with this subspecies. Only 30 northern white rhino embryos survived from Fatu and the two males before their deaths. Due to their age and health problems, Najin and Fatu cannot become surrogate mothers, so the embryos will be implanted in the south.
Researchers realize that even the birth of a few more animals through artificial insemination will not save this subspecies – there will be a lack of genetic diversity to create a viable population. Therefore, they are working in parallel on another experimental technique, trying to create rhinoceros sperm and eggs from stem cells in order to continue the production of embryos.
Biorescue scientists hope to implant the embryos in the coming months. They want the baby rhino to be born while Najin and Fatu are still alive in order to preserve the social communication of this subspecies. Scientists want the baby to be able to adopt language and behavior from the last two rhinos.
We will remind that at the end of last year in the capital of New Zealand, for the first time in more than 150 years, kiwi chicks hatched in the wild. In the Republic of South Africa, for the first time in 86 years, a golden mole was discovered – this species was believed to be extinct.
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