Extracted eggs may stop extinction of northern white rhino

Najin, left, and Fatu, the last two female northern white rhinos on the planet, return from grazing Friday at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

OL PEJETA, Kenya (AP) — Wildlife experts and veterinarians said Friday there is hope to prevent the extinction of the northern white rhino because they successfully extracted eggs from the last two remaining females of the species. The eggs will be used to reproduce the species through a surrogate.

The groundbreaking procedure was carried out Thursday on the northern white rhinos known as Najin and Fatu who cannot carry a pregnancy. The joint effort by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Avantea, Dvur Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service saw a team of vets successfully harvest a total of ten eggs from the rhinos. The eggs are to be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull and then transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother.

“We are very happy that after this first procedure on Najin and Fatu that they have recovered very smoothly and they are doing really well and fine today just 24 hours after this first procedure,” said Dr. Robert Hermes of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

“We were hoping to get a few eggs from them and our expectations have been exceeded by getting five ... from each,” he said.

The death of the world’s last male northern white rhino, Sudan, in March 2018 did not end efforts to save a subspecies of one of the world’s most recognizable animals. The focus turned to his stored semen and that of four other dead rhinos, as well as the perfection of in vitro fertilization techniques and the critical need to keep the remaining two females alive.

The ultimate goal is to create a herd of five to 15 animals that would be returned to their natural habitat in Africa. That could take decades.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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