The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

The student news site of Stone Bridge High School

The Bulldog Tribune

New Technology Sparks Hope for Endangered Rhinos

New+Technology+Sparks+Hope+for+Endangered+Rhinos
Hein Waschefort

Only two northern white rhinos remain on Earth, sparking concern with animal lovers and environmentalists alike, but a new scientific breakthrough suggests that it may not be the end for this species.

In 2018, the last male northern white rhino, Sudan, passed away, all but confirming that these rhinos were soon to be extinct. The last of them standing are Najin and Fatu, who are 35 and 20 years old respectively and are only expected to live to be about 40 years old. Due to the unprecedented decline in population, the rhinos are under armed guard 24/7 for protection against poachers.

In November, a southern white rhino named Curra died with a 70-day-old fetus in her womb. Scientists wanted to save the fetus by implanting it into another southern white rhino, despite this procedure never being done before. Within a few months, BioRescue, an organization that  aims to save endangered species, was able to implant the fetus into a 13-year-old southern white rhino. After a few weeks, the implant was confirmed to be successful.

This success sparked interest and hope in saving other endangered species, including the northern white rhinos. While neither Najin or Fatu are able to carry a calf, scientists believe that by late spring they could successfully implant a northern white rhino embryo into a southern white rhino through in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

Fortunately for this species, BioRescue has created 29 northern white rhino embryos over the past five years.

“We wanted to prove that our approach works with southern white rhino genetic material, as it is more available,” BioRescue project planner Jan Stejsakl said to CNN. “By mastering this step, we can now use a northern white rhino embryo for the first time.”

If the first IVF pregnancy proves successful, scientists predict that there will be six northern white rhinos born before Najin or Fatu pass away. Researchers believe that it will be important for the calves to be around them so that they can learn how to act and survive.

The continual low prioritization of wildlife crime and the absence of regional or global coordinated law enforcement is impacting efforts to curb the illegal trafficking of rhino horns

— Olivia Swaak-Goldman

While these developments bring hope for endangered species, it is important to remember why these procedures are needed in the first place. Between January and June 2023, Save the Rhino reported that 231 rhinos were poached in South Africa due to the high demand for their horns, which are used for certain medicines or simply as a status symbol. It’s not just rhinos that are being driven to endangerment, though, as elephants, tigers, pangolins, and hundreds of other species are targets of poaching as well.

“The continual low prioritization of wildlife crime and the absence of regional or global coordinated law enforcement is impacting efforts to curb the illegal trafficking of rhino horns,” Olivia Swaak-Goldman, executive director of the Wildlife Justice Commission, said to “Mongabay”.

The end goal is for poaching rates to decrease. For now, the greatest work involves assisting a species that once had no future to come back against all odds.

“Advanced science can help create a population that can be introduced and start reproducing itself,” Thomas Hildebrandt, the head of BioRescue, said in a statement. “It’s a blueprint for restoring ecosystems.”

About the Contributor
Abbey Baltich, Section Editor
Abbey Baltich is a senior and a section editor for the "Bulldog Tribune". She is also a member of the Writing Center. Abbey enjoys coaching basketball and attending sporting events at Stone Bridge. In her free time, you might find her playing basketball, hanging out with friends, or reading anything by Leigh Bardugo.