Experts ‘grasping at straws’ to save near-extinct rhino

December 19, 2014 8:39 am
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Keepers at California's world-renowned San Diego Zoo announced this week that Angalifu, one of its two northern white rhinos, had died at the ripe old age of 44/FILE
Keepers at California’s world-renowned San Diego Zoo announced this week that Angalifu, one of its two northern white rhinos, had died at the ripe old age of 44/FILE
LOS ANGELES, United States – So how exactly do you save an almost extinct rhinoceros? Turns out, a test tube baby rhino could be the solution, being sought by experts on three continents. But it won’t be easy.

Keepers at California’s world-renowned San Diego Zoo announced this week that Angalifu, one of its two northern white rhinos, had died at the ripe old age of 44.

That leaves only five other members of the species in the world: one female in California, one in the Czech Republic, and two females and one male — the sole remaining on the planet — in Kenya.

The trouble is, four of the five are already on their last legs — being already into their 40s, for a species with an average age of 43. Only one, a female in Kenya, is still young, having been born in 2000.

“It is seriously going to be an uphill battle. There is absolutely no doubt about that,” Randy Rieches, curator of mammals for the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, told AFP.

“We’re looking at a bunch of different options,” including in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination, he said, while admitting they were “grasping at straws at this point in time.”

The real problem, he said, is in Africa, where rhinos have been hunted for decades. The northern white rhino has been nearly wiped out by poaching for their horns, and by wars, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.

Ten years ago there were known to be some 30 animals living wild in the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Aware that they were threatened, conservationists organized for a handful of them to be transported to Kenya — but in the end the DRC authorities blocked the move, saying the animals should be kept in the country.

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