On August 22nd, 2019 an international consortium of scientists and conservationists completed a procedure that gets us one step closer to being able to save the northern white rhinos. The team successfully harvested eggs from the two females who live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya — a procedure that has never been attempted in northern white rhinos before. The successful procedure was a joint effort by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) Berlin, Avantea, Dvůr Králové Zoo, and Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
After the eggs were harvested from the northern white rhino females, they were taken into a KWS helicopter and flown to Avantea in Italy where they will be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull, and in the near future the embryo will be transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother.
The procedure to harvest eggs from the females was conducted with a probe, guided by ultrasound, which harvested immature egg cells (oocytes) from the ovaries of the animals who were under general anaesthetic. The anaesthesia went smoothly without any complications although these animals had not been immobilized for the last five years.
The girls responded well to the procedure and are now awake, happy and back to their normal selves.
(Photo by Ami Vitale)
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