The northern white rhinoceros is in danger of going extinct due to human activity. There are only two surviving females, making them extremely endangered. This would be the end in nature. The species would vanish from existence due to the passage of time and human avarice for rhino horns. But perhaps the grim trajectory of events can be reversible thanks to modern science. The successful implantation of a viable rhinoceros embryo via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) in a closely related southern white rhino mother has given researchers hope that the northern brethren may be spared from extinction.
Northern Africa was once home to large populations of northern white rhinos. But to obtain their keratin horns, which are traded on the black market, the enormous animals were hunted down and stolen. Preemptively and painlessly dehorning rhinos to make them less desirable prey has been one of the recent efforts. It was pretty much too late for the northern white rhino. At Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the last surviving members of the species have been housed in a manner that closely resembles their natural habitat since 2009. There were two males and two females at the time. However, in 2014 and 2018, respectively, both males passed away.
Only Najin and Fatu, the females, remain. Mother and daughter, that is. Since there are no longer any males in the species, its future depends on the thirty carefully preserved embryos that have already been produced and are being kept frozen in Europe. Because rhinos are such large animals, it is difficult to impregnate them, so practice was required. Thus, using much less endangered southern white rhinos, researchers used insemination through gestation. Using sperm and eggs from rhinos kept in captivity, they selected surrogate moms. The pregnancy with Curra, a rhino, continued on the thirteenth attempt, demonstrating that the method could produce a viable, healthy embryo. Sadly, the Clostridia bacteria, which was naturally raised by heavy rain, poisoned Curra while the embryo was still developing.
This was a sad conclusion, but the IVF for rhinos worked. The northern white rhino embryos, the genetic offspring of Fatu, and the males who have passed away can now be used to try it. But because of their health, Najin and Fatu cannot give birth to the rhino. There will be a selection of another southern white rhino substitute. Scientists are certain that their biology is sufficiently similar to prevent problems. However, if this breeding strategy is actually to give the species a fresh start, new genetics must be added. Using stem cells, researchers hope to create sperm and egg cells to increase genetic diversity. Head of research and species conservation at Ol Pejeta, Samuel Mutisya, stated that his organisation is "committed to doing all that is humanly possible to nurture, protect and recover the species."