With neither Najin and Fatu, the two northern white rhino females, able to carry a pregnancy, the future of the northern white rhino now rests solely on pioneering artificial reproduction techniques. The successful harvesting of their eggs means that scientists are one step closer to being able to save the northern white rhino from complete extinction.
The procedure was the result of years of research, development, adjustments and practice. "Both the technique and the equipment had to be developed entirely from scratch," says Prof. Thomas Hildebrandt from Leibniz-IZW and Dr. David Ndeereh from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who headed the procedure. "We were able to harvest a total of 10 oocytes -- 5 from Najin and 5 from Fatu -- showing that both females can still provide eggs and thus help to save these magnificent creatures."
Procedure - Probe - Ultrasound - Immature - Egg
The procedure was conducted with a probe, guided by ultrasound, which harvested immature egg cells (oocytes) from the ovaries of the animals when placed under general anaesthetic. "The anaesthesia went smoothly without any complications although these animals had not been immobilized for the last five years," say Frank Goeritz from Leibniz-IZW, Dr. Domnic Mijele from KWS and Dr. Stephen Ngulu of Ol Pejeta.
"The number of harvested oocytes is a wonderful success and proof that the unique cooperation between scientists, experts in zoos and conservationists in field can lead to hopeful prospects even for the animals that are imminently facing extinction," adds Jan Stejskal from Dvur Kralove Zoo, where the two rhinos were born.
Partnership - Dvur - Kralove - Zoo - Ol
It was the partnership between Dvur Kralove Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and KWS that led to the translocation of Najin, Fatu and two male northern white rhinos from the Czech Republic to Kenya in December 2009, when it was hoped that breeding would be stimulated by the rhinos being closer to their natural...
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