Scientists and conservationists have successfully created two northern white rhino embryos in a milestone that could save the species from the brink of extinction.
“We are happy to announce that two northern white rhino embryos have been successfully matured and fertilised,” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya tweeted Wednesday. “This development marks a turning point in the race to save the northern white rhino from near extinction!”
“The pioneering in vitro embryos of the northern white rhino is a strong testament to what committed partnership can achieve in pushing the frontiers of science to save a creature from extinction,” said John Waweru, director general of the Kenya Wildlife Service, in a tweeted statement.
The creation of northern white rhino embryos was achieved at Avantea Laboratories in Cremona, Italy. Professor Cesare Galli and his team matured and fertilized eggs collected on Aug. 22 from Najin and Fatu, the last two females in the world, who live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, with sperm previously collected from males Suni and Saut.
“We brought 10 oocytes back from Kenya, five from each female. After incubation, seven matured and were suitable for fertilization,” Galli said.
After 10 days of incubation, two of Fatu’s eggs developed into viable embryos that were cryopreserved for future transfer, the scientists said.
The last male northern white rhino was a 45-year-old named Sudan, who gained fame in 2017 with his listing as “The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World” on the Tinder dating app, in a fundraising effort. Sudan was euthanized after age-related complications.
An international team of scientists and conservationists was involved in the effort to create the embryos.
“This landmark procedure was the result of years of planning and preparation, in a joint effort by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) Berlin, Avantea Laboratories , Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS),” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy tweeted.
Decades of poaching decimated the northern white rhino’s numbers. Sudan was the last of his kind to be born in the wild, in the country he was named after.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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