When the 41-year-old Northern white rhinoceros named Nola died last November, she left behind only three others of her species on the planet. Conservationists have been struggling for years to come up with a plan to help revive the rhinos, and an attempt will be made in a few months to do just that. A team of scientists from the United States, Germany, Italy, and Japan will join forces to conceive an embryo using harvested eggs along with stem cell and in vitro fertilization technology, to be carried by surrogate rhino mothers.
The three surviving Northern white rhinos live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, and they are too old to reproduce naturally. Sudan is the last remaining male and although he is fertile, recent breeding attempts have been unsuccessful. He lives as the wildlife reserve with his daughter Najin and granddaughter Fatu. Conservationists introduced a male Southern White Rhino in 2014 in an attempt to crossbreed with one or both of the females, but nothing ever came of those attempts.
This October, scientists will harvest eggs from the living female rhinos and use stem cell technology to create an embryo. Using techniques not unlike IVF in humans, those embryos would then be implanted in a female rhino from another species, most likely a Southern white rhino. They would act as surrogates, carrying the implanted embryos to term and giving birth to a baby rhino that is, genetically, 100 percent Northern white rhino.
The plan is audacious but, if it works, it could save the species from imminent extinction. Despite that potential, critics have decried the attempt, deriding conservationists for relying on science as a fallback when natural breeding methods fail. Some say IVF and surrogate rhinos is going too far, and that it may just be time to say goodbye to the majestic creatures for good.
Via The Guardian