Although there are only two northern white rhinos left alive in the world, they’re kind might be on the brink of a comeback with the help of science. In a recently published study in Nature Communications, the scientists used frozen sperm from three deceased northern white rhinos to artificially fertilize southern white rhino eggs outside the womb. They allowed the eggs to grow until they had reached the blastocyst stage. At this point they froze the developing eggs to preserve until a suitable surrogate mother could be found.
“So the two females sleeping down are the two northern female white rhinos left on the planet. It’s a mother and a daughter, and the one facing us is a southern white rhino. The one which is awake is the southern white rhino of which we might use as a surrogate mother.”
Well the two types of white rhinos may look similar, the northern and southern subspecies differ in several physical aspects, for example, the northern white rhino has hairier ears, and the larger southern white rhino has grooves between its ribs.
“So we hope that within three years we will have been able to create the first northern white rhino baby. So we can let it live with the two remaining northern white rhinoceros females in Kenya.”
Thankfully, the rhinos are still genetically close enough, that scientists can use southern white rhino eggs to create hybrid animals.The last two northern white rhinos are no longer fertile, so scientists could not create a pure northern white rhino embryo.In the future researchers hope to create artificial northern white rhino eggs and saved reproductive cells to help ensure genetic diversity.
“Only to ensure the females are still on living on our planet, but this is technology approach we are capable to create a genetic viable population in the next decade.”
With the help of southern white rhinos, the most abundant rhino in the world, perhaps scientists can preserve these massive mammals.
Sadie Witkowski VOA News.