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Embryos are said to save northern white rhinoceros from extinction


It seems hopeless: only two animals live on the northern white rhinoceros. Both are females, both are sterile. Researchers are still trying to preserve the species with an elaborate project.

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They are the only ones left.

Najin and Fatu are the last two northern white rhinos in the world.

Both are females - mother and daughter.

And both are sterile.

That makes them currently the most endangered mammal species in the world.

The last bull, her father and grandfather, died of old age in 2018 at the age of 45.

Northern white rhinos were once widespread in central Africa.

Over time, however, the wild population withdrew to the Republic of the Congo.

After civil wars and excessive poaching, the animals have been considered extinct in the wild since 2008.

An international group of scientists and conservationists is trying to save the species with the last two animals in the reserve in Kenya.

The researchers took egg cells from the younger animal, which they artificially fertilized with frozen sperm, thereby growing two embryos.

They had already been able to produce three more embryos.

But because of the travel restrictions caused by the corona pandemic, the whole project was delayed, says the head of reproductive medicine at the Berlin Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Thomas Hildebrandt, Head of the Reproduction



»We now have five northern white rhinoceros embryos of excellent quality.

This is a very good backbone for our project and we are very confident that we will produce a calf from these five embryos. "

The researchers are initially testing their embryo technology with the also sterile females of the related southern white rhinoceros, of which around 18,000 are still alive.

Only when they are successful here do they want to apply their method to the younger of the last two northern white rhinos.

For the time being, the embryos therefore remain preserved in liquid nitrogen.

But time is of the essence.

Thomas Hildebrandt, Head of Department Reproduction Management

»We are under time pressure because we want the last existing northern white rhinos to pass on their social knowledge to a calf.

That means we have to produce a calf in the next two or three years. "

The team hopes to be able to give birth to the first calf with the northern white rhinoceros in the next three years - and to save the species from extinction in the long term.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-01-27

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