UK rhino eggs provide hope to save last northern whites

A UK zoo takes part in an innovative plan to help save the last three northern white rhinos from extinction.

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino. © Julia Migné

Longleat safari park is joining forces with Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya to save the world’s last northern white rhinos.

Scientists have collected eggs from the zoo’s southern white rhinos, a closely related sub species, and will use them to develop the technology to help the three remaining northern whites to reproduce.

Darren Beasley, head of animal operations at Longleat, said to the BBC: “Effectively the female rhinos would act as IVF mothers, with embryos partly derived from northern white male sperm. If the procedure works, the hope would be that southern white females would carry the developing embryos for up to 18 months before giving birth.”

This new fertility technology could be the last hope for that Critically Endangered species which now only counts two females and a male left in the world. Sudan, the last male standing is over 40 and cannot reproduce anymore but the two younger females could still help to save the species.

Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, the owner of the animals which were moved to Kenya, has now enlisted the help of wildlife fertility experts from Germany and Italy.

Professor Thomas Hildebrandt, from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany, said: “We hope future generations will understand that this is the way to go. It is a technology that allows us to bring a species back form the brink of extinction that would normally be impossible – and that is our goal. We are extremely optimistic that we will achieve that.”

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