Scientists have sequenced the frozen DNA from a dozen northern white Rhinos and have found that the species could be saved. Tony Spitz has the details:
Immediately after the world’s last male northern white rhino died on March 19th, a team of vets got to work. Within 30 minutes, they had collected tissue from the ears, gums, spleen, windpipes, and testicles of the 45-year-old rhino, named Sudan. The precious genetic material was put in a solution and then frozen at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, where Sudan spent the last nine years of his life. Those cells could one day bring the northern white rhino back from the brink of extinction.
Dozens of scientists across the globe — from the US to Europe to Africa — are working together tirelessly to figure out ways to breed rhino embryos in the lab. The effort resembles in some ways the popular de-extinction projects that are attempting to resurrect the woolly mammoth or the passenger pigeon; all want to reverse extinction and in some cases, fix the damage humans have done.
The odds of success for the rhino are much higher: Unlike species that have been extinct for decades (or thousands of years!), northern white rhino DNA and sperm are preserved safely in different labs around the world. If it works, the project could bring back herds of northern whites that used to roam the grasslands of east and central Africa, where they were poached for their horns.