Scientists have achieved the world's first in vitro fertilization of a southern white rhino, according to an announcement yesterday. The procedure paves the way to save a closely related endangered species, the northern white rhino, whose population has dwindled in central and east Africa due to poaching.
Only two northern white rhinos (see 101) exist, a mother named Najin and her daughter Fatu, who live in Kenya and are unable to carry pregnancies because of age and other ailments. Since 2019, scientists have harvested eggs from Najin and Fatu and used the sperm of deceased male northern white rhinos for artificial insemination. So far, 30 northern white rhino embryos have been created and stored in liquid nitrogen in Italy and Germany, which researchers hope to eventually transfer into a southern white rhino surrogate.
But first, scientists implanted a southern white rhino, Curra, with an embryo of its own species to ensure the technique would work. Curra died 70 days into her pregnancy because of an infection caused by bacteria found in the soil. Still, scientists found the fetus had a 95% chance of surviving the 16-month pregnancy had Curra not died.