There are only two remaining female Northern White Rhinos at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia County rendering them the world’s most endangered mammal, with only two remaining females and no males
To stop this from happening, Scientists have for the third time successfully harvested eggs from these last two remaining female Northern White Rhinos because neither one would be able to carry a pregnancy to full term
The exercise was witnessed by Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary (CS), Najib Balala on Tuesday and saw 10 immature eggs (oocytes) extracted from the two critically endangered Northern White Rhinos christened Najin and Fatu.
Now, the eggs will be fertilized with sperm harvested from the last Northern white male that died of old age in 2018.
Prof.Dr. Thomas Hilderbrandt from Leibniz-IZW who led the exercise said that the procedure involved harvesting the oocytes from the animals’ ovaries using a probe with a movable needle guided by ultrasound. The animals were first placed on anesthesia.
“The anesthesia on the two animals and the ovum pick up went on smoothly without any complications. We are hopeful for more success as we progress to save this endangered species,” Prof. Hilderbrandt said.
The oocytes were immediately airlifted to Avantea Laboratory in Italy via Germany where they will be incubated and matured, then fertilized with sperm from the deceased Northern white rhino bull to form an embryo that would later be implanted on a surrogate Southern white rhino to carry it to term.
So far, two viable Northern white rhino embryos have successfully been generated in previous procedures at the Avantea Laboratory and are currently stored in liquid nitrogen awaiting identification of an appropriate surrogate mother.
“The progress made so far in the Northern white rhino assisted project is very encouraging, and we look forward to the transfer of the already developed embryos into southern white rhino surrogate females here at Ol Pejeta Conservancy,” Balala said.
The CS lauded Ol Pejeta Conservancy for its leading role in rhino conservation, noting that cases of rhino poaching had drastically reduced in the country in the last two years.