Only one male and three female northern white rhinos exist and none are capable of natural reproduction, leaving the subspecies on the brink of extinction and calling for desperate measures.
Officials are down to their only hope to save the northern white rhino and that is in vitro fertilization, something never successfully carried out with rhinos previously.
Officials from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the largest sanctuary for black rhinos in East Africa, and the Dvůr Králové Zoo in Czech Republic on Tuesday launched a GoFundMe campaign to fund the development of the IVF technique, viewed as a last-ditch effort to save the northern white rhino.
The estimated cost of developing, testing and implementing an IVF and embryo transfer is approximately $800,000.
"If the remaining females die before this method has been developed, one of the last chances to save the northern white rhinos will vanish," the conservation partners stated.
Sudan (named after his birth-place but living in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya) is the last northern white male in existence, and at 42 is in advanced old age for a rhino. The chances of him successfully mating are close to zero.
The only hope now is to develop assisted methods of reproduction to allow new northern white rhino calves to be born. Given the age and reproductive health issues that affect the remaining females, we are exploring in vitro fertilization and an embryo transfer. We aim to combine eggs from the remaining females with stored northern white sperm to create embryos that can be carried by surrogate southern white females.
Officials say there is no guarantee the technique will work, but if successful, they will save a rhino subspecies.
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