Because of human poaching, the northern white rhino is hanging on the brink of extinction by a thread. In fact, the two females at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya are now the only living members of their subspecies, as Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, died this year in March. As a result, these females are unable to reproduce, leaving the northern white rhino species with no natural way to recover… but thanks to some creative thinking and modern technology there may still be hope.
Scientists are trying something new that has never been attempted with rhinos: they are creating hybrid embryos. There are still approximately 20,000 southern white rhinos left on the planet, so the researchers are using preserved sperm from several male northern white rhinos to fertilize eggs from female southern white rhinos. The fertilized eggs will then be implanted into surrogate (substitute mothers) southern white rhinos, who will hopefully be able to give birth to the baby hybrid rhinos. Hybrids could then be bred to select for northern white rhino genes, resulting in recreation of the species down the line. My fingers are crossed that this experiment will work and we will be seeing some new baby rhinos soon!
Want to learn more? Visit https://www.sciencenews.org/article/researchers-create-hybrid-embryos-endangered-white-rhinos?tgt=nr
July 9, 2018