Scientists have achieved the world39s first IVF pregnancy in rhinos

Scientists have achieved the world's first IVF pregnancy in rhinos, which could save species from extinction – of which there are only two left in the world

Northern white rhinos are believed to be extinct with only two females left, but scientists believe a new IVF treatment could save the species.

A team from the BioRescue Project, an international consortium of scientists and conservationists, believes in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment can bring the animals back.

IVF treatment is well established in humans and domesticated animals such as horses and cows, but this is the first time that scientists have successfully used IVF in rhinos.

The team performed the procedure on southern white rhinos, which are cousins ​​of the northern group.

BioRescue said it had stored living cells from 30 northern white rhinos in liquid nitrogen and intended to use them for future IVF treatment of its endangered relative.

Northern white rhinos are considered extinct, with only two females left

The IVF treatment resulted in a successful pregnancy, although the rhino died of an infection 70 days later

The IVF treatment resulted in a successful pregnancy, although the rhino died of an infection 70 days later

“It was completely new territory, and everything from the approach to procedural protocols to the required equipment had to be invented, developed, tried and tested to be safe for use,” said Thomas Hildebrandt, leader of the BioRescue project.

BioRescue achieved the world's first rhino pregnancy by transferring a laboratory-created embryo from southern white rhinos, whose population still numbers in the thousands.

Scientists used a southern white rhinoceros embryo and implanted it into a surrogate mother at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya in September.

The sperm came from a male southern white rhinoceros from the Salzburg Zoo in Hellbrunn, Austria, and the embryo came from Elenore, a southern white rhinoceros living at the Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium.

BioRescue achieved the world's first rhino pregnancy by transferring a laboratory-created southern white rhino embryo

BioRescue achieved the world's first rhino pregnancy by transferring a laboratory-created southern white rhino embryo

BioRescue scientists used IVF to implant a fertilized southern white rhinoceros egg into a surrogate mother

BioRescue scientists used IVF to implant a fertilized southern white rhinoceros egg into a surrogate mother

There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, and because they cannot reproduce, the species is considered extinct

There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, and because they cannot reproduce, the species is considered extinct

The team was able to recover the fetus, which, had it survived, would have had a 95 percent chance of survival

The team was able to recover the fetus, which, had it survived, would have had a 95 percent chance of survival

BioRescue announced that the southern white rhinoceros became pregnant with a male 70 days after the fertilized egg was implanted. But then tragedy struck when a storm swept through the area, releasing a bacteria called clostridia into the air that can be fatal to animals.

The rhinos died in the storm, but scientists concluded that if the female had made it, her offspring had a 95 percent chance of survival.

It took scientists 13 embryo transfer attempts on rhinos before they achieved a successful IVF pregnancy.

Najin and Fatu are the last living northern white rhinos and live in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya

Najin and Fatu are the last living northern white rhinos and live in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya

Since the two females are unable to conceive due to their age and health problems, the scientists decided to implant the embryo into a replacement southern white rhinoceros

Since the two females are unable to conceive due to their age and health problems, the scientists decided to implant the embryo into a replacement southern white rhinoceros

The remaining two northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, were brought to the reserve to protect them from illegal poaching.

Both animals are under strict protection and are guarded day and night by armed guards.

Since the two females are unable to conceive due to their age and health problems, the scientists decided to implant the embryo into a replacement southern white rhinoceros.

The team said the success of the pregnancy gives them hope that they will achieve the same success with the northern white rhinos.

A timetable for the trial has not yet been given.

Hildebrandt said the successful implantation of the southern white rhinoceros gives the team hope for the future conservation of northern white rhinoceros and he looks forward to now moving forward with IVF treatment for Najin and Fatu.

This site marks the death of northern white rhinos killed by poachers in Kenya since 2004

This site marks the death of northern white rhinos killed by poachers in Kenya since 2004

“Although embryos can be stored in liquid nitrogen for a very long time, we are in a hurry to bring a baby northern white rhinoceros to Earth,” Hildebrandt said, adding, “With this proof of concept, it can become a reality in two to three years.” .'

Susanne Holtze, a scientist in the BioRescue project, said the team has used stem cell replication strategies and in the future plans to edit lost genetic information from museum samples and reintroduce them into the gene pool.

Building on their previous research, the scientists had to figure out how to collect the samples and when to implant them to have the best chance of success.

“The successful transfer of a southern white rhinoceros embryo is a proof of concept that allows us to take this crucial step – an embryo transfer with a northern white rhinoceros embryo – for the first time,” BioRescue said.

“Directly supporting the northern white rhinoceros’ survival in Kenya demonstrates the critical role zoological institutions play in species conservation,” said Catherine Vancsok, scientific advisor at the Pairi Daiza Foundation.

Justin Heath, CEO of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, added: “This is a huge milestone for everyone who dedicates their lives to protecting endangered species.”

In the 1950s, there were more than 2,000 northern white rhinos in Africa, but illegal poachers almost wiped them out for their horns, leaving only Najin and her daughter Fatu in the wild.