Scientists may be able to save the northern white rhinos from extinction after successfully harvesting two eggs from the last two remaining animals. Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, died last year in Kenya leaving behind only two infertile females.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Richard Vigne, the CEO of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the not-for-profit wildlife conservancy in Central Kenya's Laikipia County housing the two rhinos, deemed the exercise a historic milestone and a first step in saving the rhinos from extinction.
"So what happened is a team of vets managed to remove 10 egg cells (oocytes) from the two remaining females; this has never been done before in the world." Vigne added that scientists want to fertilize the eggs with semen removed from Sudan before his death to create an embryo which will then "be frozen till the technology is available to grow them into a herd."
He added that the scientists plan to use surrogate female southern white rhinos multiple times to create a herd of pure northern white rhinos which will finally be reintroduced back to Central Africa, their original homeland where they were hunted for sport and their horns.
"Those eggs can't survive by themselves; they have to be exported for fertilization to Italy within 24 hours… maximum 48 hours otherwise they will spoil. Also note that only 20 % of the eggs will successfully become embryos."
Vigne anticipates that within 10 years, when the technology is available, "we might have a herd of around 20 rhinos."