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article imageNew assisted reproduction techniques to save endangered rhinos

By Tim Sandle     Aug 31, 2019 in Science
A team of scientists have completed a procedure which will enable assisted reproduction techniques to help save an endangered species - the Northern White Rhinoceros - from potential extinction.
The northern white rhinoceros is facing extinction. There are only two of these rhinos left worldwide (residing at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya), and both are female. The rhino numbers were driven down by poaching. At first look, saving this species of megafauna from extinction looks highly unlikely. However, an international team of scientists have developed a technique of assisted reproduction which could save the species, the BBC reports.
On August 22, 2019, veterinarians managed to harvest eggs from both females. This process has never been undertaken for rhinos before. The harvested eggs will be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull, and the embryo will then be transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother (since of the two northern white rhino females is able to carry a pregnancy).
The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest species of rhinoceros. There are two subspecies: the southern white rhinoceros (of which there are some 20,000) and the northern white rhinoceros, for which there are only two left called Fatu, aged 18 and Najin, aged 29. The last male northern white rhinoceros died in 2017. The extent to which these represent different species and what subspecies remains a point of contention.
According to Laboratory Manager magazine, developing the procedure was complex and the removal of the eggs was conducted using an ultrasound guided probe. This harvested immature egg cells from the ovaries of the rhinos.
The successful procedure was developed by scientists working at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin, the Avantea, Dvur Kralove Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and the Kenya Wildlife Service.
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