About the episode
Only two northern white rhinos remain. Two women in Kenya are under guard 24 hours a day. Both can no longer produce young and so the end is in sight for the species.
However, there is still some hope. In the form of 30 embryos. If we can get another species of rhino to serve as a surrogate mother, it may not be too late.
This plan is not easy. But the first successful embryo transplant into a southern white rhino now shows that doesn’t have to be impossible.
The embryo transfer took place in September last year. The embryos came from southern white rhinos and were placed with surrogate mothers of the same species. Which leads to a successful pregnancy.
Unfortunately, the father and expectant mother died due to a bacterial infection unrelated to the operation. The baby the mother was carrying was 70 days old at the time. This is only a very small part of the total period of pregnancy, which lasts 16 months. However, according to the researchers, the small animal is proof that it is possible.
It is true that the remaining embryos of the northern white rhino consist of the eggs of one female and two males. This means that even if many young animals are born, there is not enough genetic diversity to start a healthy population. Researchers hope to solve this problem in the future through genetic modifications, including the use of animal genetic material from museums.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First you need to know if the IVF pregnancy is successful at all. The first attempt will be made in May or June this year.