Artificial insemination is not easy, even in humans. Nevertheless, the technique has already been used successfully in dogs and other domestic animals. But with rhinos? Here, there has been no experience whatsoever.
In 2015, 20 international scientists finally came together to make the impossible possible: to find a strategy to save the northern white rhino. They developed an approach combining advanced assisted reproductive technologies (aART) and stem cell-associated techniques (SCAT).
During four procedures under full anesthesia, multiple immature oocytes could be retrieved from Najin and Fatu. Subsequent incubation and fertilization of the eggs with thawed rhino sperm was successful and five viable embryos grew. They are stored frozen in liquid nitrogen. They are now waiting to be implanted into a substitute mother rhino. There are no empirical reports for this either. Therefore, artificial insemination is first being tested in a southern white rhino.
This innovative rescue operation is being carried out by the international BioRescue consortium in the Department of Reproductive Management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Who will get the mother role? A young southern white rhino has already been selected for this important task. She has already raised a cub once and thus proved her capability.