To say that the population of northern white rhino is on the brink of extinction will be a gross understatement. The last of the remaining species is down to one old male and two old females; none of the animals can naturally sire kids due to old age.
That means should the male, called Sudan, dies. That would be the end of the northern white rhino. The two females, Fatu (28) and Najin (17) cannot successfully carry a pregnancy to term because scientists believe they are too old.
Surrogate technology to the rescue
Unless human technology intervention is used, we might as well take Sudan, Fatu, and Najin skeleton to the museum as a relic of extinct animals. Put them beside the incomplete skeletons of the mammoth and the dinosaurs.
At the end of 2017, scientists, veterinarians, conservationists, and wildlife managers from Kenya, South Africa, U.K., and Czech met to come up with a groundbreaking human intervention to save the northern white rhinos.
The team resolved to use the southern white rhinos as the surrogate for the offsprings sired by the last remaining male and two females of the northern white rhino species. As it works out, sperm from Sudan will be used to fertilize ova from Fatu and Najin inside a lab. The embryo will then be implanted into suitable female southern rhinos.
“The surgery required to harvest these eggs carries essential dangers and will have to be conducted in the field. The fate of the northern white rhino subspecies depends on this operation going smoothly,” said the conservancy group.
The Kenya Wildlife Service will supervise the pick-up of ova from Fatu and Najin from the Ol Pejeta Conservancy located in northern Kenya. Once the ova is successfully collected, they will be shipped to a specialized lab in Italy where the artificial fertilization will be undertaken.
The conservancy group is eyeing a particular herd of five southern white rhinos (females) living on a 700-acre ranch. Though they were enclosed there with one male southern white rhino called Kingi, he will be moved in time to make sure the females are “empty” and ready to play surrogate mother when the fertilized embryos are shipped back to Kenya.
Sudan is the last male northern white rhino on earth, and the continuation of his species rest solely on his groins. That popular phrase with the ladies ‘I won’t date you even if you were the last man on Earth’ does not apply to him. For the survival of their species, Sudan has to be the man in their lives.
Though the situation is dire, there is still some positive light in there. Sudan is the most treasured rhino on earth and is on a 24/7 watch by tight security and top-notch scientists from around the world.
He first reached global stardom in 2016 when a team of scientist tried to obtain sperms from him for purposes of preserving his species. Since December 2017, he has been under medical care from to vets from around the world. He has been responding well to treatment, but his caretakers are getting concerned about his frail health.
“Sudan has been suffering from bedsores as his mobility decreased, one of which has become infected. We are treating his wounds twice a day to avoid the risk of infection, and they are getting better. The sores are being made worse because he lies down too much,” said Elodie Sampere, the spokesperson of Ol Pejeta.
“Recently, a secondary and much deeper infection was discovered beneath the initial one. This has been treated, but, disturbingly, the infection is taking long to recover. We are very concerned about him especially given his advanced age.”