Will Science Help the Northern White Rhino Thrive Again?

March 22, 2018

Can you save an endangered species from near extinction? The short answer is yes, and we’ve seen it happen with a number of animals, such as the panda bear, the Siberian tiger, and the grizzly bear. But bringing these animals back from near extinction takes a lot of effort. After all, many animals are hunted for their fur, tusks, and other parts that are considered valuable. Still, efforts in breeding animals, laws that make it illegal to hunt specific animals, and other large conservation efforts can indeed save a species from becoming extinct.

But what happens when only two animals are left and they are both female? Can such a small population survive? The northern white rhino is one such subspecies that is near extinct.

Sudan, the last male northern white rhino with one of his handlers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya.

Earlier this week, Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhino, passed away. With only two known female northern white rhinos left in the world, scientists are working to see how they might be able to save this dying subspecies of rhinos with science rather than traditional breeding and conservation efforts. How? They’re seeing if they can take the eggs of the two remaining female rhinos and the sperm of a deceased male rhino and implant them into a healthy southern white rhino. It’ll take quite a bit of effort and many trials, but those behind the research are hoping this will be the first step in helping other near-extinct animals. Some scientists, on the other hand, think that saving the northern white rhino is a wasted effort and that they should focus their time and energy on species that have a greater chance of survival.

What do you think?