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Kenya: Scientists on northern white rhinoceros repopulation mission

Restoring Kenya's northern white rhino population.   -  
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Domenico Stinellis/Associated Press


Scientists in Kenya are on a quest to save the northern white rhinoceros -- one of two subspecies of white rhino, on the brink of extinction after the death of the last male named Sudan in 2018.

They are confident about saving the species using 9 embryos -- obtained from eggs harvested from two surviving females and frozen sperm from deceased males.

Richard Vigne, the Managing Director of Ol Pejeta Conservancy, outlines the next steps.

"The next stage is to work out how to take those embryos, which are northern white rhino embryos, and to put them into a surrogate southern white rhino female.

"It has to be a southern white rhino female because there are no northern white rhino females that can carry those embryos to make a calf."

Thomas Hildebrandt, who works at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and a BioRescue project leader, appears happy with the progress thus far.

"Nobody has really dreamed of so much fast progress in the beginning. And these embryos really represent new life.

"If the transfer in the surrogates and potential mothers with a nice life and lively environment here in Kenya, we are quite confident that this will be successful and we can demonstrate to the world that this ambitious project is successful. "

The scientists hope to have one or two northern white rhino calves In two to three years.

They will repeat the process multiple times to eventually have enough live rhinos to breed naturally amongst each and gradually recover the population -- which has dwindled mainly due to the effects of climate change and poaching.

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