Yes, this is the population status of one of the most ancient animals walking on Earth, and a more important fact is "Both are Females." We are talking about the Great Northern White Rhinoceros, the calmest, most friendly, and most social of all Rhino species we know. And maybe this is the reason they were critically hunted for their horns in the past few decades, which has a vast demand in the Asian black market.
Sudan, the last male Great Northern White Rhino, was euthanized on March 19, 2018 ( due to age-related complications ). Fortunately, our technology has grown enough to preserve his sperm to revive this near extinction species. But unfortunately, his 29-year-old daughter (Najin) and 19-year-old grand-daughter (Fatu) both are incapable of bearing calves, due to bad health.
But the scientists didn't give up the hope of saving these wonderful species under their watch. As a result, on August 22, 2019, researchers successfully harvested the eggs from Najin and Fatu. These eggs were then transferred to Italy, where they will undergo "Vitro Fertilization," a process in which egg and sperm are fertilized outside the body. The scientists will then cryopreserve them until they perfect their technique for transferring them into a southern white rhino surrogate.
The southern white rhinoceros is one of the two sub specie of the white rhinos. There were only 50 of them remaining worldwide and on the brink of extension when conversion measures were taken to ensure the safety of these animals. And the good news is that there has been a boom in the number of Southern White Rhinos due to relentless efforts by rangers, wildlife conservationists, and government entities such as the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who have been at the forefront in the battle against poachers. And as a result, from an isolated population of 50, the Southern White Rhino has recovered to nearly 20,000 across the region.
But the quest to save the critically endangered Nothern White Rhinos is still ongoing. So, after incubating and maturing nine extracted eggs, amongst which, four were from Fatu and one from Najin. They were fertilized with sperm using a procedure called the ICSI which is also known as Intra Cytoplasm Sperm Injection. One out of the five eggs from Fatu fertilized with semen taken from Suni developed into a viable embryo. The scientists have been able to successfully produce three unadulterated northern white rhino embryos.
Waves of happiness were spread across the faces of many people associated with the cause when, on February 15, 2020, at the Nairobi National Park, a 3-day-old White Rhino calf named Edward was seen cuddling with its surrogate mother. All the hard work paid off when this rhino sub specie was moved from the critically endangered to nearly threatened category. But the struggle is not over yet, as there are still only three northern white rhinos worldwide.
Hopefully, the herd of Northern White Rhino will once again walk on Earth, and this time with pride. Thereby marking an exceptional success of Researchers and Fund Raisers who helped in making this possible.
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