In Kenya, scientists found success in harvesting eggs from the only two northern white rhinos worldwide, expediating the initiative to save this majestic animal from extinction. With only 2 northern white rhinos left in the world, saving the northern white rhino has become an international effort, with the cooperation and some friendly competition among scientists and institutions, including zoos in San Diego and Cincinnati. Their names are Fatu and Najin, they are both female and live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The last male, Sudan, passed away two years ago and garnered concern for the subspecies and their extinction risk. A dedicated team of scientists and conservationists managed to harvest eight eggs from Fatu and two eggs from Najin, meaning the conservancy is one step closer to dissolving the risk. The eggs are now on their way to a medical laboratory in Italy called Avantea, where scientists will attempt to fertilize the eggs with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull. “Despite the many challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of scientists and conservationists have made it from Europe,” the conservancy wrote. “Although delayed by eight months, their commitment to the mission has been relentless.”
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy acquired two male and two female northern white rhinos in 2009 from a zoo in the Czech Republic. Both male northern white rhinos have since died — Sudan was the first in 2018, and the other male passed away in 2014. Sperm from both were frozen with the hope that technology would one day help assist the progress of reproduction. A team of international scientists harvested 10 eggs from the two female rhinos in August 2019. According to the conservancy, seven were viable, and two were successfully fertilized into embryos using stored sperm from two northern white rhino bulls. It has taken the team four months since their return to harvest another seven eggs to create another embryo using frozen semen once again. Rhino poaching has escalated over the last few years and is being driven by the demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, particularly Viet Nam. Rhino horn is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, fueled by the belief in Asia that their horns cure various ailments.