After death of world's last male northern white rhino, IVF could save it from extinction

Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced that Sudan, who was 45 years old and the last surviving male northern white rhino on the planet, died at the Conservancy on March 19, 2018.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced that Sudan, who was 45 years old and the last surviving male northern white rhino on the planet, died at the Conservancy on March 19, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The northern white rhino could have another shot at defying extinction, after the death of its last male on Monday (March 19).

Scientists are hoping that in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) could save the rhino subspecies from extinction, the BBC reported.

Sudan, who was the last surviving northern white rhino, was euthanised at a conservancy in Kenya after his age-related health complications worsened.

The rhino, who was 45 years old, had suffered from a deep wound on his right hind leg, and developed complications that affected his muscles and bones.

Sudan had been infertile for years, and previous attempts to get him to mate naturally had failed.

Now, only two females of the northern white rhino subspecies are alive in the world.

Scientists have been planning and developing the IVF technique since as early as January 2015, according to a BBC report.


Najin (right) and Fatu, the only two remaining female northern white rhino, graze in her paddock at the ol-Pejeta conservancy in Nanyuki, north of capital Nairobi on March 20, 2018. PHOTO: AFP

Eggs were harvested from the remaining females, while frozen sperm were already stored at an institute in Berlin, Germany.

However, neither of the two northern white rhinos will be able to carry the pregnancy, as they have physical ailments.

Instead, a female of a different subspecies, the southern white rhino, would serve as the surrogate mother, according to science and technology news portal Futurism.

But techniques for the procedure have yet to be perfected, and applying it will be difficult, said the chief executive of the conservancy where Sudan lived.

Until then, it is important that both remaining female northern white rhinos continue to live, added Mr Richard Vigne.