Further hope to save the Northern White Rhino

Overview

There are many endangered species at risk of extinction from our planet. In general, extinction can be of many reasons, and even be a natural process.

Publish Date

15 JAN 2020

Author

Jan Kirsten

There are many endangered species at risk of extinction from our planet. In general, extinction can be of many reasons, and even be a natural process (think about dinosaurs). Today, however, most cases are caused by the one and only factor: Humankind. The Northern White Rhino suffered for decades on human cruelty and illegal hunting of their horns leaving only two female Northern White Rhinos left: Fatu and Najin.

Although the international trade of rhino horn has been banned, there is still a high demand for their horns as they represent status and are used as allegedly aphrodisiac or supposedly a cure for cancer. Combined with the loss of its natural habitat, this species is now at the brink of extinction as the last male rhino Sudan died last year. I believe, we have the responsibility, not only as scientists but as humans, to help these amazing creatures and other species, to not vanish from our planet.
Hence, we are proud to collaborate with the conservationists and research groups of the BioRescue project who work hard to save the Northern White Rhino from extinction through the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART). To support this great cause we decided to commit ourselves as  a long term partner of the BioRescue project, giving access to our world-leading fertility technologies as well as providing ongoing counsel and scientific expertise to give this challenge the best possible chance of success.

Today, we are beyond excited that the team achieved a new milestone: One out of five fertilized eggs from Fatu1 developed into a viable embryo with the help of Geri®, an innovative benchtop incubator with integrated continuous embryo monitoring capabilities designed to provide an individualized and undisturbed incubation environment. This achievement is increasing the chances of a successful production of an offspring as this is now the third embryo which could be generated.2

But what is next?

This mission will be now moving forward on parallel tracks as the team will try to generate more embryos to further increase the chance of success as well as prepare the surrogate mother for the embryo transfer.

Historically, rhinos once roamed in large numbers across much of Asia and Africa but today this is totally different. The whole research team is passionate to give this exciting project the best chance of success.

References 

1 Fatu is one of the last two remaining Northern White Rhino females, living in Ol Pejeta Conservatory in Kenya. The other female rhino is named Najin.

2 In August 2019 the team was able to successfully create two northern white rhino embryos, which are currently stored in liquid nitrogen.

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