Weird News: Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step - PressFrom - United Kingdom
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Weird NewsBold effort to save rhino completes critical step

12:20  25 august  2019
12:20  25 august  2019 Source:   nationalgeographic.com

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An international team of experts is engaged in a last ditch effort to save the northern white rhino from extinction. The next few months are critical for the survival of the northern white rhino , as an expert panel races to save They plan to complete the job soon, but Jan Stejskal sounded a note of caution.

"This critical rescue effort is a priority for the Mexican government and we are dedicated to providing the necessary resources in order to give the plan its "Although this effort faces a lot of uncertainty and is highly risky, WWF recognizes it as a necessary action to save the vaquita from extinction.

Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step © Photograph by Ami Vitale

Najin is one of the last two northern white rhinos on the planet. As part of an ambitious plan to bring back the subspecies, her eggs were successfully harvested, to be used in IVF with the sperm of a deceased northern white rhino male.

On a frigid day in December 2009, four northern white rhinos were picked up from the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic and transported to the airport in Prague, where they were loaded onto a Martinair 747 cargo jet as snow swirled outside. Accompanied by a veterinarian and packed in special wooden crates built to support their heft—they typically weigh between 3,750 pounds and 5,290 pounds—the rhinos flew to Kenya. There, they were scooped up in DHL trucks and driven to Ol Pejeta, a wildlife conservancy nearly three times the size of San Francisco in the country’s center.

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Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step © Photograph by Ami Vitale

Fatu is surrounded by her keepers and veterinarian Stephen Ngulu. Partially anesthetized, she is guided gently onto soft sand bedding before being fully anesthetized for the procedure.

The four individuals—two males named Suni and Sudan, and two females named Najin and Fatu—represented half of the surviving northern white rhino population, a subspecies of white rhino distinguished from southern white rhinos by their furry ears and shorter front horns. According to Save the Rhino, an advocacy group, as late as 1960, about 2,360 northern white rhinos roamed Chad, the Central African Republic, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. But by 1984, rampant poaching and civil violence had slashed their population to about 15.

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An international team of experts is engaged in a last ditch effort to save the northern white rhino from extinction. The next few months are critical for the survival of the northern white rhino , as an expert panel races to save it from oblivion. Some pin hopes on an assisted reproduction programme, but the

Saving the northern white rhino has become an international effort , with cooperation but also some rivalry among scientists and institutions around the world. Instead, they suggested, work should focus on saving other endangered rhino species that can still be found in the wild.

Twenty five years later, in 2009, just eight northern white rhinos remained—all of them housed either at Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic or the San Diego Zoo. Only four of them were potentially fertile. Conservationists hoped that transporting those four to Ol Pejeta in their native Africa, with its warmer climate and expansive grasslands, would inspire them to breed and allow the subspecies to recover.

The change of scenery did less than the conservationists had hoped. Though the rhinos’ keepers witnessed several mating attempts, Fatu and Najin remained barren and were eventually deemed incapable of bearing calves. Meanwhile, the few relatives they had begun to pass away. In 2011, Nesari, an elderly female, died at Dvůr Králové. She was followed by Suni, one of the males at Ol Pejeta, Angalifu, Nabire, Nola, and finally, in the spring of 2018, Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on Earth. Since then Fatu and Najin have been the only representatives of their kind.

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“Ways to save the rhino population need to be based on good science, otherwise it risks setting conservation efforts back.” One thing is clear: in the fight to save the rhino , any proposed technological solution needs critical attention. But the new ideas may at least generate more thinking

Save the Rhino ’s position, and the policy adopted by the programmes to which we make grants, is that shoot-to-kill should only be used as a last alternative and in self-defence. Anti-poaching rangers must do all they can to avoid killing a poacher. In the event of contact made between a ranger and a

Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step © Photograph by Ami Vitale

Fatu undergoes the procedure to remove eggs from her ovaries. The presence of large blood vessels nearby make it a delicate procedure. From left to right, Robert Hermes, Thomas Hildebrandt, and Susanne Holtze, from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, perform the procedure.

While the deaths were devastating, scientists were prepared. For years, Thomas Hildebrandt, head of reproduction management at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, and his team had been collecting and freezing semen from several northern white rhino bulls—including Sudan. Back in 2014, after learning that Fatu and Najin were likely infertile, he organized an international team that included the Dvůr Králové Zoo, the Kenya Wildlife Service, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Avantea, an Italian animal reproduction lab. The group devised a scheme to regenerate the northern white rhino population through in vitro fertilization, a process in which egg and sperm are fertilized outside the body.

Today, the team announced it has made significant progress towards that goal: On August 22, the team successfully retrieved eggs from Fatu and Najin—a feat that had not previously been attempted on northern white rhinos. After years of research, preparation, and practice, this is a critical first step in the quest to breed new members of this critically endangered subspecies.

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Efforts to save the rhinos will continue. The focus now turns to cells collected from Sudan and four other dead rhinos . Work will go on to Scientists have developed a way to remove the eggs. They have used females from the similar southern white rhino subspecies from European zoos, Stejskal said.

Last week, the Asian rhino range countries made an unprecedented commitment to increase the This was preceded by the Sumatran Rhino Crisis Summit in April where a bold , new plan shifted the This could well be the last viable option for Sumatran rhinos . It will be critical to establish the number

Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step © Photograph by Ami Vitale

Fatu, pictured after the procedure and reversal of anesthesia.

Getting the eggs

Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step © Photograph by Ami Vitale

Members of the Kenya Wildlife Service, carrying coolers with the 10 eggs from Fatu and Najin, escort the team—including Hildebrand (center) and Cesare Galli (left) through immigration at the airport.

In preparation for attempting the procedure on Fatu and Najin, the team honed their extraction skills by practicing extracting eggs from scores of southern white rhinos. It’s a delicate process because of the risk posed by anesthesia and the presence of nearby large blood vessels. In 2018, Avantea’s Cesare Galli, an Italian veterinarian and embryologist famous for cloning the first horse, injected some of those eggs with the semen of a northern white rhino to create hybrid blastocysts, or early embryos. This demonstrated that the semen could produce transferable embryos.

Bold effort to save rhino completes critical step © Photograph by Ami Vitale, Nat Geo Image Collection

Wildlife ranger Zacharia Mutai comforts Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, moments before he passed away on March 19, 2018, at Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya.

Finally, on Thursday, the team determined they were ready to do it for real. They anesthetized Fatu and Najin in their enclosures at Ol Pejeta and extracted their eggs—a tricky process that requires reaching the animals’ ovaries several feet inside their bodies. Supervising veterinarians didn’t want the rhinos to be asleep for longer than two hours, and frequently reminded the scientists of how much time remained, says Elodie Sampéré of Ol Pejeta.

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Upon completing the procedure, the team rushed the retrieved eggs to a mobile laboratory fashioned from a shipping container. While he examined the cells through a microscope, Galli ordered everyone to be silent so he could focus. Ultimately he counted ten viable oocytes—five from each rhino. The team was thrilled.

“I was here five years ago when we found out Fatu and Najin would not be able to reproduce naturally, and we realized we’d need to pursue artificial means,” rememberers Jan Stejskal, director of international projects at the Dvůr Králové Zoo. “Now it’s finally happening.”

But the team did not have much time to revel in their achievement. The scientists carefully packed the eggs into blocky white coolers and quickly carried them onto a waiting helicopter, which ferried them to the airport in Nairobi. From there they boarded a commercial flight to Frankfurt, where they switched to another plane destined for Italy.

At Galli’s lab in Cremona, the team will now wait to see which egg cells mature and fertilize them with frozen northern white rhino semen. Should the fertilized eggs develop into embryos, the scientists will cryopreserve them until they perfect their technique for transferring them into a southern white rhino surrogate.

New methods

Though this is a significant step in the battle to save northern white rhinos, some caution it’s too early to celebrate their salvation just yet. Artificial insemination has successfully produced white rhino calves, but in vitro fertilization has never been completed with rhinos before. The closest scientists have come is creating a viable embryo and attempting to transfer it.

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• Fund rhino conservation efforts – It costs a lot to save rhinos . Support rhino conservation legislation – Write to your political representatives asking them to back legislation that protects endangered species, fights illegal wildlife trade and reduces forest destruction.

Save the Rhino International works to conserve all five rhino species, by supporting rhino conservation programmes across Africa and Asia. Using equipment effectively. What does it really take to save rhinos ?

Moreover, the scientists said in a news release, the quality of semen collected from the northern white rhinos is poor and comes from just a few bulls—though Stejskal points to the hybrid blastocysts as proof of its viability.

Even if a southern white rhino cow can carry a northern white rhino fetus to term—which is uncertain—the northern white rhino calves may not be genetically diverse enough to sustain a population.

“This whole methodology is in its infancy, says Susie Ellis, the executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, a conservation nonprofit. “It’s a long way from developing a cluster of cells that’s an embryo to having a rhino on the ground—and then subsequently having a herd of rhinos on the ground.”

The team of scientists is also working on an alternative—though equally challenging—approach. Using preserved skin samples from twelve northern white rhinos, the researchers hope to produce gametes, or egg and sperm cells, which can then be added to the in vitro process to diversify the gene pool. Last year, a study suggested that the sample tissues contain enough genetic diversity to eventually support a healthy northern white rhino population.

Jeanne Loring, a stem cell researcher at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, who is working separately on a similar project, is optimistic that such techniques will ultimately produce rhinos. “It’s produced pups in mice,” she explains “And, in our experience, anything that can be done in mice can be adapted to humans – and that also means white rhinos.”

Fatu and Najin might pass away before such research comes to fruition. But scientists hope that, with their genetic material preserved, their deaths will mean just a pause—not end of their subspecies.

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