Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
Researchers in San Diego have announced the pregnancy of a southern white rhino via artificial insemination, which is good news for the almost extinct subspecies — the northern white rhino species.
If the pregnancy is successful, researchers are hoping that one day the southern white rhinos can serve as surrogates for northern white rhino embryos, after the world's last male northern white rhino, ‘Sudan’ died on 19 March 2018, leaving behind the last two female rhinos.
These hopes were revived on Thursday, 17 May, with the announcement of a female southern white rhino’s pregnancy. Named Victoria, the southern white rhino was impregnated with the frozen sperm of a male southern white rhino.
This development is significant as the zoo wants to test if six other southern white rhino females can carry an embryo to full term and deliver a baby, before trying to use them as surrogates for northern white rhinos.
Establishing a pregnancy. Victoria especially on the first try and with frozen semen was actually amazing and we were so excited to see it. Thrilled to see it and every time we see this foetus growing we just feel more and more elated about the whole project that this is a huge step in the right direction.Dr Barbara Durrant, Director, Reproductive sciences, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research
Rhino pregnancies can last upto 18 months. Victoria was inseminated on 22 March, 2018 and if all goes well she will give birth in the summer of 2019. Artificial insemination has been attempted previously in zoos and has resulted in few births according to the San Diego team.
To create northern white rhino embryos, the San Diego team will be using the ICSI technique (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) through which they take a single sperm and inject it into a single egg. The resulting embryo is implanted in the uterus. This technique is widely used in humans, cattle and horses. It helps preserve sperm when it is not abundant.
Northern white rhinos once roamed parts of Chad, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Central African Republic, but they were particularly vulnerable because of the armed conflicts that have swept the region over decades.
Now the only animals left of the sub-species are Sudan's daughter, Najin, and is his granddaughter, Fatu. Success may be years away, but Dr Durrant is confident that a live birth of a northern white rhino will happen eventually.
(With inputs from AP)