Last year, we wrote about the scary case of the world’s three remaining northern white rhinos. When Sudan, the only male of the three, passed away earlier this year, conservationists feared the subspecies was doomed for extinction. But now, a group of scientists working in Italy has successfully created two northern white rhino embryos. If these embryos can be successfully transferred into a surrogate mother, experts believe the northern white rhino can be brought back from the brink of extinction.
“The entire team has been developing and planning these procedures for years,” says Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany told QZ. “Today we achieved an important milestone on a rocky road which allows us to plan the future steps in the rescue program of the northern white rhino.”
At present, the world’s only two northern white rhinos are a mother and her daughter, and they are kept under 24-surveillance in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, after spending the first part of their lives in a zoo in the Czech Republic. Poaching has decimated the entire rhino species, but northern white rhinos were hardest hit. At their peak, northern white rhinos were spread throughout Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and possibly even further. Their numbers were reduced to about 15 in the ’70s and ’80s until conservation efforts in the ’90s reversed the trend and brought their numbers back to 32. But an increase in poaching led the subspecies to its perilous point today.
Hopefully, new technology and conservation efforts can make the northern white rhinos’ next rebound a permanent one.