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The Last Two Female Northern White Rhinos Could Save Their Subspecies — Without Males

The Last Two White Rhinos Could Save Their Subspecies — Without Males

As usual, science and women are busy trying to save their species from extinction.

In a never-before-attempted procedure on the last remaining pair of northern white rhinos on Earth, a team of veterinarians in Kenya has successfully harvested eggs in an effort to spearhead repopulation efforts, CNN reports.

The last male northern white rhino, called Sudan, died of natural causes in March of last year; the only other remaining male passed in 2014. Both had their sperm frozen even before the technology was available to facilitate an artificial insemination, according to CNN, in the hope that science would catch up before it was too late. 

Two female rhinos survive their male counterparts. Their names are Najin and Fatu, and today they quietly waited while a team harvested 10 oocytes — ovarian cells capable of meiotic division — that will hopefully be used for insemination.

Kenya’s female northern white rhinos aren’t alone in their quest to repopulate, though. Unfortunately, the last female northern white rhinos are “not able to carry a pregnancy themselves,” CNN reports. So they’ll need some assistance from surrogate female southern white rhinos, a neighboring subspecies of white rhino.

Luckily the southern white rhino has seen success with artificial impregnation before: a baby was born for the first time via this method at the San Diego Zoo in July. The rhino calf was carried to term after artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and finally transfer of the embryo to surrogate. 

The northern white rhino has yet to successfully undergo embryo production in vitro, CNN reports. But Cesare Galli, co-founder of the Italian animal reproduction laboratory Avantea, called the possibility a “tangible reality for the first time” in a press release, after the two subspecies were found last year to be more closely related than previously thought — which could hopefully mean calves for our unlikely rhino mothers.

Whatever the outcome is, just know my alien from Area 51 is taking notes. And sperm is good for up to 36 hours after you’re dead so… let’s cooperate with whomever takes the reigns from our nosediving E.P.A. under the Trump administration to make sure aliens don’t need to repossess our genes for repopulation.

Tags: Tech

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