Conservationists had been resigned to the northern white rhino dying out until a groundbreaking procedure in Kenya.
Eggs fertilised from final two females of near-extinct northern white rhino in Kenya

Seven eggs successfully extracted from the last two remaining female northern white rhinos have been fertilised, further raising hopes that the near-extinct species could be saved.

Thanks to a groundbreaking procedure carried out in Kenya last week, 10 eggs were harvested from Najin, 30, and her daughter Fatu, 19, and seven have since successfully matured and been artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from two northern white rhino bulls.

If the operation leads to the creation of viable embryos they will then be frozen and transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate, as neither Najin or Fatu are able to carry a pregnancy.

Cesare Galli, who led the team behind the procedure at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, said: "We were surprised by the high rate of maturation achieved as we do not get such high rate with southern white rhino females in European zoos.

"The semen of Saut was very difficult to work with and to find three live sperms needed for the eggs of Najin we had to thaw two batches of semen. Now the injected oocytes (cells) are incubated and we need to wait to see if any viable embryo develop to the stage where it can be cryo-preserved for later transfer."

Results of possible embryo development will be announced on 10 September, when a potentially brighter future for the northern white rhino could be secured after years of doubt.

The final male of the subspecies, a 45-year-old named Sudan, died from "age-related complications" in March 2018 after his condition "worsened significantly" and left him unable to stand.

His death left the northern white rhino as "functionally extinct".

Sudan, Najin and Fatu were among a group of four fertile northern white rhinos moved to the Ol Pejeta site from a zoo in the Czech Republic, with hopes that they could breed in an environment similar to their native habitat.

The other male, Suni - one of the bulls whose frozen sperm was used last week - died of natural causes in October 2014.



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