Science Combats Extinction of Rhinos

Science Combats Extinction of Rhinos

Darbi Nash, Reporter/Feature Writer

On March 19, 2018, Suni, the last living male white rhinoceros, was announced dead. After two years of trying to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction, the international collaboration has allowed the extraction of 14 eggs from the Fatu, one of the two females in the remaining species. BioRescue, the Italian laboratory Avantea, the Dvůr Králové Zoo, and Kenya’s Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife Service, have been pursuing rehabilitating the white rhinoceros species since 2018. 

They sent the viable eggs to a lab in Cremona, Italy, where they were combined with Suni’s sperm. There are now five fertilized eggs, essentially giving them five chances to succeed. The most critical part of this process would be artificial insemination. To make things more complicated, Fatu and her mother, Najin, can bring a calf to term. BioRescue will have to use a surrogate mother from the southern white rhinoceros species. 

If this process fails, another, more radical way of saving the subspecies, including manufacturing eggs and sperm through the Nobel Prize-winning scientist Shinya Yamanaka’s changing skin cells to stem cells, stem cells into cells that make up sexual equipment. 

There are enough existing skin cells to create a stable and genetically diverse population raised by surrogates, protected in sanctuaries, of course, until 20 or 30 years when they may rejoin their ancestors’ spirits on the open plains of Kenya.