In vitro fertilization to save the white rhino

In vitro fertilization to save the white rhino

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In the Ol Pejeta conservation park, the veterinarians who live with these 3 specimens every day seek drastic solutions to face an extreme situation: trying to save the species. And time runs against you.

Save the species

Since the 3 rhinos arrived at the reserve 6 years ago, natural pregnancies have been non-existent since the species, even in areas where it is protected, has a very precarious birth rate.

"The only option now is to develop assisted reproduction methods to allow new calves of the northern white rhino to be born, and we are experimenting," Richard Vigne, director of Ol Pejeta, explained to EFE.

Although there is no guarantee of success and it carries risks, experts consider assisted fertilization as the only means of survival for the species after having exhausted other possibilities.

"It has never been done in rhinos before, so it is not known what will happen or how long it will take to obtain results," said Vigne, who insisted that it is worth trying because, if it is achieved, it will have been saved. the species.

After the death in late November of Nola, a 41-year-old northern white rhino who lived in a zoo in San Diego (USA), the situation of the species has notably worsened.

Health check

In recent months, Ol Pejeta veterinarians have carried out health checks on the 3 rhinos, two females and one male, to evaluate their reproductive possibilities.

The examinations determined that the 2 females cannot reproduce naturally: Fatu, the youngest, has degenerative lesions in the uterus while her mother, Najin, has very weak hind legs, which makes it difficult for her to be mounted and could cause her complications during pregnancy.

Veterinarians also spotted some sperm problems in the 42-year-old male, Sudan, that hinder the chances of reproduction.

With these circumstances in mind, a committee of experts came up with a new plan: combining eggs and sperm in the laboratory to create embryos that can be gestated in other rhinoceros variants.

In fact, Sudan's sperm has already been frozen in a semen bank so that even if it died, it could be used to produce new specimens.

Ol Pejeta admits that it will be "complicated" and they calculate that it could take up to 3 years to develop the required techniques, for which an investment of about a million dollars would be needed.


For years, human poaching has contributed to the extinction of these animals, whose horns are paid at higher prices than gold in Asian markets due to alleged healing and aphrodisiac properties.

Now, it is also in your hands to help save them through a campaign to raise funds and finance this research under the slogan “Make a rhinoceros, save a species”. So far he has managed to raise more than $ 16,000.

"Now people are more aware of environmental problems and I hope they will help save the northern white rhino," Vigne said hopefully.

Illicit trade in ivory and rhinoceros horn is a major concern in East Africa, where Kenya and Tanzania are the main departure countries for these products, which then travel to China, Thailand or Vietnam.

Photo: Photo provided by of Najin and Fatu, the only two female northern white rhinoceros in the world, in the Kenyan park Ol Pejeta. EFE / Ian Cumming


Video: The survival of the northern white rhinoceros and dozens of other species could hinge on the collect (May 2022).