JUL 20, 2017 01:31 PM PDT

An Attempt to Save the Northern White Rhino from Extinction is Underway

The northern white rhino is quickly hurtling towards extinction. For many years. Animal poachers plinked them off one-by-one to cash in on their valuable horns, resulting in the dangerously tiny population that exists today.

Just three northern white rhinos remain in the entire world; one male and two females, but it seems unlikely that they will mate and produce offspring naturally. They live in captivity at Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, where they are heavily guarded to prevent them from being killed by poachers.

Nola was one of the world's last remaining white rhinos. She passed away in November of 2015.

Image Credit: San Diego Zoo Safari Park/Facebook

Related: One of the last remaining northern white rhinos passes away, leaving just three in existence

Given the grim circumstances, experts are beginning to look for alternative ways to help the species reproduce before it’s too late. One way to go about it is to use to an assisted reproductive technology dubbed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

This procedure involves extracting egg cells from a female host and artificially fertilizing them with sperm cells in the lab. Everything happens outside of the female’s body up until an embryo is produced; once that happens, it’s planted inside a surrogate female’s uterus to continue development.

The plan is to extract egg cells from one or both remaining female northern white rhinos before the end of the year. Once in hand, an attempt will be made to fertilize them with sperm from the last remaining male and then grow an embryo. Experts will then take that embryo and implant it inside the uterus of a female southern white rhino, a close relative of the northern white rhino. Although the southern white rhino is similar to the northern white rhino, the two species are unique genetically.

A backup plan is also in place just in case things go horribly wrong. At least nine egg cells have already been extracted from a southern white rhino at Longleat Safari Park in England. If the initial attempt to fertilize northern white rhino eggs with northern white rhino sperm fails, it may be possible to fertilize the southern white rhino eggs with northern white rhino sperm instead. While producing a hybrid between the two species isn’t the optimal outcome, at least 50% of the northern white rhino’s DNA could live on even if all remaining specimens died out.

All outcomes are purely theoretical since IVF has never been used on a rhino species before. Nevertheless, if we are to save a dying species, it seems to be worth a try.

Related: Seven puppies are born via In Vitro Fertilization for the first time

Using artificial means of supplementing animal conservation efforts isn’t a new idea. While there are some ethical decisions to be made if things don’t quite go as planned, it could be the only way to save the northern white rhino from what looks like imminent extinction, and perhaps other animal species on the brink could benefit from this technology too.

Right now, there's not much anyone can do besides hope for the best. It's both a waiting game and a game of chance.

Source: BBC

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 27, 2018
Plants & Animals
AUG 27, 2018
Can Effective Fisheries Management Prevent Extinction of Marine Fish Stocks?
Animal populations around the globe, marine variants included, are projected to decline as climate change rears its ugly head. But new research suggests th...
SEP 24, 2018
Plants & Animals
SEP 24, 2018
Rare Two-Headed Snake Discovered in Virginia
There are two types of people in this world; those who love snakes and those who don’t. But regardless of which group you identify with, a recent dis...
OCT 03, 2018
Plants & Animals
OCT 03, 2018
These Weird Fish Live in Some of the Deepest Parts of the Ocean
While animal researchers are reasonably well-rounded about the types of species residing at mild depths, we still have a lot to learn about what inhabits t...
OCT 31, 2018
Earth & The Environment
OCT 31, 2018
Haiti has lost over 99% of its forests
A new study has discovered that Haiti is currently undergoing a mass extinction due to the fact that the country has less than 1% of its original primary f...
NOV 11, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 11, 2018
Bee Study Connects Social Behavior with Gene Variants
Researchers used a special kind of bee that can live in either social communities or isolation, as their research model....
NOV 14, 2018
Plants & Animals
NOV 14, 2018
Here's What Happens When a Fly Lands on Your Food
If you’re like me, then you probably hate it when flies land on your food. But why is it such a big deal anyway? When flies land on your food, it&rsq...
Loading Comments...