Netherlands

Survival of northern white rhinoceroses rests on the shoulders of a single female

The northern white rhinoceros, which originally occurred in Congo, Uganda and Sudan, among other places, has been teetering on the brink of extinction for years. The last male specimen died three years ago in a Kenyan wildlife sanctuary. He left a daughter and granddaughter. As far as we know, these Najin and Fatu are the only living specimens of their species.

In an ultimate effort to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction, scientists at BioRescue, a German government-backed international research team set up especially for this purpose, are using a type of IVF treatment. They make embryos in the laboratory from the frozen sperm cells of deceased male rhinoceroses and the eggs of Najin and Fatu.

To obtain the eggs of Najin and Fatu, the scientists developed a special skewer, which they can use to reach the ovaries. Fatu’s eggs are said to have produced 12 northern white rhinoceros embryos so far. This was not yet possible with the ten eggs that were collected from Najin.

Egg donation pension

After an ‘ethical risk assessment’, the BioRescue researchers have therefore decided to send Najin on egg donation pension. The health of the rhinoceros female played a major role in that decision: several small, benign tumors were recently found in her cervix. Moreover, with her 32 years, Najin is already quite old.

“Withdrawing an animal from a conservation program for animal welfare reasons is usually not a long-term issue,” said chief veterinarians Frank Göritz and Stephen Ngulu. “But when that animal makes up 50 percent of your population, you do consider this decision multiple times.”

According to BioRescue, Najin remains an “ambassador” for the conservation of her species. For example, the researchers hope that Najin will pass on “her social knowledge and behavior” to future offspring, who will essentially be her grandchildren. The researchers will also continue to take pieces of skin from her for stem cell research.

Southern white rhinoceros as a surrogate mother

Incidentally, Najin and Fatu themselves are unable to complete a pregnancy. That is why the scientists want to insert such an embryo into the belly of a southern white rhinoceros, who is to give birth to a rhinoceros baby as a surrogate mother.

The population of southern white rhinoceroses is improving worldwide. A century ago, the subspecies was almost extinct, now there are more than twenty thousand individuals, according to the World Wildlife Fund, which live mainly in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

That reproduction is also a precarious matter in southern white rhinoceroses was shown last month at Wildlands Emmen zoo. The 19-year-old male Limpopo arrived there as part of the European breeding program EEP, who had already sired three offspring. But Limpopo’s acquaintance with the rhinoceros sisters Elena and Zahra went awry. “Instead of them showing him his place together, they both ran off,” the zoo writes on its website. After a fifteen-minute chase, Elena slipped, landed in a waterhole and drowned.

Survival of northern white rhinoceroses rests on the shoulders of a single female
Source link Survival of northern white rhinoceroses rests on the shoulders of a single female

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