By Caroline Chebet, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, The Standard.
Published 4 January 2019.
Conservationists have adopted artificial fertilisation in efforts to breed northern white rhinos.
Scientists are expected to pick ova from the world’s remaining two female northern white rhinos in Nanyuki.
The remaining females, currently at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, have challenges reproducing naturally and scientists will soon be harvesting ova from them for purposes of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) slated to take place in laboratories in Italy.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy head of wildlife Samuel Mutisya, said the procedure, which was expected to take off in 2018, is technical and requires a lot of planning and logistics.
“The project was expected to take place in 2018 but the process involves a lot of technicalities and plans. Proper plans had to be put in place because the process of harvesting, nurturing and implantation will take place in different countries,” Mr Mutisya said.
The process, he said, would involve researchers, scientists and conservationists from different countries, with Kenya as key destination where ovum pick-up will take place.
The ova will then be transported to a laboratory in Europe where they will be nurtured and transported back to Kenya where the embryos will be implanted in the rhinos, to hopefully carry them to term.
“Last year was all about planning and assigning roles before the scientists embark on the delicate procedure. Since it will also involve the movement of specimen from countries, everything had to be critically put in place because this is one of the major technological efforts in saving the species,” Mutisya told The Standard.
The sperms were harvested from male northern white rhinos, before they died, and frozen in laboratories.
The death of the last northern white male rhino nicknamed Sudan in March last year is said to have catalysed scientists’ efforts to come up with technological innovations that could potentially save northern white rhinos from extinction.
Read the full story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.