Extracted eggs may prevent extinction of white rhino, hope scientists

Updated August 24, 2019

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NAIROBI: Tourists pose for a photo during a visit to the rhino-memorial where headstones bear names of dead rhinos, including Sudan, the world’s last white rhino male who died last year.—AFP
NAIROBI: Tourists pose for a photo during a visit to the rhino-memorial where headstones bear names of dead rhinos, including Sudan, the world’s last white rhino male who died last year.—AFP

OL PEJETA: Veterinarians have successfully harvested eggs from the last two surviving northern white rhinos, taking them one step closer to bringing the species back from the brink of extinction, scientists said in Kenya on Friday.

Science is the only hope for the northern white rhino after the death last year of the last male, named Sudan, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya where the groundbreaking procedure was carried out on Thursday. Two females, Najin, 30, and daughter Fatu, 19, are the only survivors of the subspecies of white rhino, and live under 24-hour armed guard at Ol Pejeta.

However neither is able to carry a calf. Fatu has degenerative lesions in her uterus and Najin has weak hind legs which could cause complications if she fell pregnant.

The rhinos underwent a highly risky procedure carried out by a team of international vets, which saw them anaesthetised for almost two hours, and their eggs extracted using techniques that have taken years of research and development.

“It was a great success, yesterday ten oocytes were harvested which was about the number we hoped for” said Jan Stejskal, of the Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic, which in 2009 sent four northern white rhinos to Kenya in a bid to encourage them to breed.

He explained that after the discovery that the two females were infertile in 2014, over 15 European zoos had given the green light for their their southern white rhino females to undergo the newly-developed egg extraction technique.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019