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Northern white rhino embryo could save all-female subspecies from extinction

Frozen sperm from a dead male has been used to create an embryo which, it is hoped, will be carried by a surrogate.

Researchers say they have successfully created another embryo of the nearly extinct northern white rhino in a global effort to keep the species alive. Just two members of the subspecies remain, and both are female.

The viable embryo is just the third to be created in a lab with eggs taken from the females and inseminated with frozen sperm from dead males, according to Wednesday’s statement. The embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen to be transferred into a surrogate mother, a southern white rhino, in the coming months.

“It’s amazing to see that we will be able to reverse the tragic loss of this subspecies through science,” said Kenya’s wildlife minister, Najib Balala, in the statement by the Kenya Wildlife Service and conservationists from Kenya, the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy.

The ultimate goal is to create a herd of at least five animals that could be returned to their natural habitat in Africa, but that could take decades. The two remaining female northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, are hosted by Kenya. The three viable embryos have been created with eggs from Fatu.

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