Thinker's Chronicle

World’s First IVF Rhino Pregnancy.

When it comes to the Northern White Rhino, all hope of it being saved from extinction has been left to science. Having been declared functionally extinct since only two infertile females are left in the world, no natural breeding can occur and the only way of conception is through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Photo Credits: Reddit

The embryo transfer technique was uncharted territory; hence, it took many years, efforts and
resources to prove it was possible.

the head of the Bio-Rescue Project, Thomas Hildebrandt

The BioRescue Project, consisting of an international group of scientists, carried out their research and, after numerous attempts, they finally successfully implanted an embryo of a southern white rhino in a surrogate named Curra at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in September, 2023. Unfortunately, Curra succumbed to a bacterial infection from heavy and climate change-related rains, and it was later confirmed that she had a 70 day old fetus from the embryo transfer. Following the bittersweet news, the scientists now plan to select a new surrogate mother and develop northern white rhino embryos. To improve the chances of successful reproduction, stem cell techniques may have to be employed.

As Dr. Erastus Kanga, Director General of Kenya Wildlife Service, commented “the application of novel assisted reproductive techniques in an effort to save the northern white rhino from extinction has borne fruit with major milestones having been achieved in optimization of the embryo transfer procedures in rhinos.”

One of the foreseen challenges is that of time-frame for the next steps in the research. In order to maintain a pure species of the Northern White Rhino, the calves would need to interact with its kind in order to learn distinct behaviors of the species. Najin (35) and Fatu (24), being the last of their kind, are living under 24 hour armed guard at Ol Pejeta Conservancy to monitor them and
make sure they stay alive.

The key partners through this journey have been the Kenya Wildlife Service, The Leibniz Institute and Ol Pejeta Conservancy among many other organizations. We are one step closer to bettering the future of the Northern White Rhino and restoring the damage we human beings have caused by poaching.

Keren Wanjiku