5 viable northern white rhino embryos have been created

The Northern white rhino, an animal that existed in the DRC and parts of the world like that, still had numbers of about 2000 in the 1980s. Unfortunately there are now only two.

The BBC seven worlds one planet series, included a short clip about the last 2 northern white rhinos, With thousands living wild, just 35 years ago, can we save these animals?

Humans are belatedly trying to do something about this, and have managed to create 5 seemingly viable northern white rhino embryos.

These can then be put in the surrogate Southern white rhino mothers, giving the ability to increase the population from the current 2, to a potential 7.

Now while this is fantastic news, and could allow this almost extinct animal to recover, bear in mind the recent used about wild southern white rhinos,and the astounding reduction in their numbers over the last decade.

Is it reasonable how to use a species with a two-thirds decline in a decade to recover another species. Possibly I would argue not, however if we bear in mind the huge number of captive southern white rhinos the new picture emerges. A species with over 3000 wold members could be considered safe where it not for the catastrophic in the last decade. If the 2020s lead to a similar fall, we could see a wild population of southern white rhinos down to just 1000 or even less.

The issue with white rhino poaching essentially boils down to facts

1) 90% of the southern white rhinos wild number roamed the Kruger national park (if other southern white rhino populations have remained stable, the Kruger with now only account for 75%)

2) Kruger is a vast untamed wilderness, and with the insane price for keratin (a chemically identical material to our fingernails) now over $5,000 per kg, the risk for poachers is worth it. If the South African government cannot get the poaching under control perhaps these southern white rhino would be needed to produce more white rhino calfs.

It would be wonderful to bring the northern white rhino back from the brink of extinction. However, given the fact that this animal’s home range is still so unstable, wild reintroductions are likely impossible for some time. Therefore given the southern white rhinos current predicament, perhaps these northern embryos should be frozen and use data point in the future when the southern white rhino is no longer under such pressure.

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