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Northern White Rhinos Could Be Saved from Extinction Thanks to Species’ First IVF Pregnancy

The BioRescue Project said the accomplishment is "a cornerstone in the mission to save the northern white rhino from extinction"

<p>Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty</p> Northern white rhinos

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty

Northern white rhinos

The first northern white rhino IVF pregnancy has given the nearly-extinct species a higher chance of survival.

The BioRescue Project announced on Wednesday that it has achieved the world's first successful embryo transfer in rhinos. The international research group shared that the procedure has produced "a pregnancy of 70 days with a well-developed 6.4 cm long male embryo."

To achieve the milestone, the BioRescue Project produced a southern white rhino embryo from collected egg cells and sperm. The embryo was transferred into a southern white rhino surrogate mother at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on Sept. 24, 2023.

The research consortium said the accomplishment is "a cornerstone in the mission to save the northern white rhino from extinction."

Related: Zoo Atlanta Welcomes First White Rhino Calf on Christmas Eve: 'Beyond Excited'

<p>Naveena Kottoor/picture alliance/Getty</p> two northern white rhinos and one southern white rhino are on the grounds of Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Naveena Kottoor/picture alliance/Getty

two northern white rhinos and one southern white rhino are on the grounds of Ol Pejeta Conservancy

"The successful embryo transfer and pregnancy are a proof of concept and allow [us] to now safely move to the transfer of northern white rhino embryos," the nonprofit organization said in its announcement.

According to Helping Rhinos, a nonprofit organization, only two rhinos are left in the world — Najin and Fatu. Both are female and cannot breed naturally.

Sudan, the last known male northern white rhino, died in March 2018. Najin, Fatu, Sudan, and Suni, who died in 2014, arrived at Ol Pejeta in December 2009 after living in Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic.

Related: Rhino Born on Christmas Eve Finds Love at California Zoo with Help from Matchmakers (Exclusive)

<p>Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty</p> Northern white rhinos

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty

Northern white rhinos

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"All previous breeding attempts in the Zoo had been futile, and the hope was that the climate and rich grasslands of Ol Pejeta, a native habitat for the animals, would provide them with more favorable breeding conditions," the conversancy notes on its website.

The International Rhino Foundation states that the best option to prevent the extinction of the northern white rhino is to preserve the subspecies' genetic material and utilize it in advanced reproductive technologies.

"Even so, these methods will never fully re-create the subspecies – the best that can be hoped for is that the critical genes that allowed the northern white rhino to adapt to ecosystems in its historical range can be preserved. And that, at some point, existing northern white rhino genetic material can be crossed with southern white rhinos to produce hybrid offspring," the organization adds on its website.

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