The scientists of the Cremona’s Avantea Laboratories, Italy announced on September 12 that they were able to create two embryos of the northern white rhino. The effort is part of the international initiative to save the species of white rhinos which is at the verge of extinction. Only two female white rhinos are left in the entire world, which makes it even more serious concern with the clock ticking. Thomas Hildebrandt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany in his statement to the international media said that it is an important milestone that has been achieved on a road full of obstacles. He further added that this will help us in planning a better future and conservation strategies to rescue the northern white rhino.
The scientists created the embryos using the eggs from the female rhinos and fertilized them with the sperm of dead male rhino. The embryos are now stored in the liquid nitrogen which will be transferred to the southern white rhino for further development. The southern white female rhino will perform as the surrogate mother in the coming future. Hence, the scientists see hope to keep the northern white rhino species alive. This experiment is a result of years of hard work by the institute. The institute is part of an international project which consists of scientists and conservationists across the world who have been working on similar developments.
The extinction of animal species is a serious concern. Every extinction affects the balance in the food chain. The aim of the scientists is to reproduce at least five animals. These five rhinos can then return to their niche and continue to increase in number. The process may take decades. The rhinos are killed for the trade of horns. These horns are used for their medicinal properties which catalyze the healing process traditionally used in China, and also used as a carving material.
The process of the creation of embryos is seen as an achievement. It was performed at the Cremona’s Avantea Laboratories. Cesare Galli and his team performed the experiment after the extraction of five ova each from the mother rhinos. The mothers Najin and Fatu, are the female rhinos who are protected in Kenya. During the process, the eggs were incubated. Out of ten cells, seven of them matured, these were suitable for fertilization. But only two of them develop into embryos. Jan Stejskal, director of communication at the Dvur Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic said to media that, “Five years ago it seemed like the production of a northern white rhino embryo was an almost unachievable goal and today we have them”. This achievement has made the entire team optimistic about future developments.