One of the world’s last two northern white rhinos is being retired from a breeding programme aimed at saving the species from extinction, scientists have said.
Najin, 32, is the mother of Fatu who is now the only donor left in the programme, which aims to implant artificially developed embryos into another more abundant species of rhino in Kenya.
There are no known living males and neither of the two remaining northern white rhinos can carry a calf to term. Scientists hope to implant embryos made from the rhinos’ egg cells and frozen sperm from deceased males into surrogate mothers.
“This decision was arrived at after an in-depth ethical risk assessment, weighing up risks and opportunities for the individuals and the entire species rendering this decision without an alternative,” the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to the mother and daughter, said in a statement on Thursday.
It added that oocyte collections in Najin have yielded only a few eggs to date, with none of them able to fertilise successfully into an embryo.
Northern white rhinos, which are actually grey, used to roam freely in several countries in east and central Africa, but their numbers fell sharply due to widespread poaching for their horns.
A Biorescue team led by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany has been racing against time to save the world’s most endangered mammal.