Backdrop: In May this year as the world bid goodbye to the last surviving male northern white Rhino named Sudan, all hope seemed to be lost on the efforts to conserve these mighty beasts. After his death, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya now houses two female rhinos, the only two northern white rhinos surviving on the planet subjecting the species towards extinction.

The news: An article published yesterday in Nature Communications reported that researchers from the Laboratory of Reproductive Technologies in Italy successfully produced hybrid embryos by fertilizing eggs from a southern female rhino using the preserved sperms from the last northern rhino, marking a crucial step forward towards revival of this species1. These embryos are now frozen, and investigators hope to use them in the future for implantation into surrogate rhinoceroses. If this method can be further validated, researchers are hopeful that it can be extrapolated to create pure northern white rhino embryos as well. However, scientists also sound a word of caution and warn against potential complications and failures going ahead with this new finding and that it will be a long road before a calf is born.

The bigger problem: Wildlife experts say that it is not just science that will save this and other species from extinction. Poaching is a huge problem in Africa with over 1028 rhinos killed in 20172. We as a society and the governments together need to spread awareness and take efforts to save invaluable wildlife from becoming sheer exhibits.

 

References:

  1. Embryos and embryonic stem cells from the white rhinocerosThomas B. Hildebrandt, Robert Hermes, Silvia Colleoni, Sebastian Diecke, Susanne Holtze, Marilyn B. Renfree, Jan Stejskal, Katsuhiko Hayashi, Micha Drukker, Pasqualino Loi, Frank Göritz, Giovanna Lazzari & Cesare Galli. Nature Communications Volume 9, Article number: 2589 (2018)
  2. https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino-info/poaching-stats/

Author

Snehal Joshi 

Photo by Lucas Alexander on Unsplash