A ‘Test Tube Rhino’ has provided new hope with regard to the functionally extinct species, the northern white.
The last male of the species was euthanised back in March, at a Kenyan conservatory. The remaining two females are now left without a potential mate. Conservationists and environmentalists alike were lamenting the prospect of another species lost, however, the fight may not be quite over.
Scientists are looking at the southern white variant, of which there is a healthier population of approximately 21,000, as a source of potential assistance.
New Atlas reports that the southern white females ‘could serve as surrogate mothers if and when early-stage embryos developed from the egg and sperm of their northern cousins can be successfully implanted to establish a pregnancy‘.
As Nick Lavars outlines in his report:
‘Scientists at the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin (Leibniz-IZW) have landed on a promising stepping stone, successfully creating a hybrid embryo using an egg from a southern white rhino and sperm from a northern white rhino.’
They achieved this by adapting techniques already used in horses, that saw immature egg cells called oocytes collected from the females and then matured and fertilized with sperm from now deceased northern white males.
“Our results are solid, reproducible and very promising,” says Professor Thomas Hildebrandt, Head of the Department of Reproduction Management at Leibniz-IZW. “Now we are well prepared to go to Kenya and collect oocytes from the last two NWR females in order to produce pure NWR blastocysts where both eggs and sperm are from NWR.”
The findings of this research were originally published in Nature Communications.