The international consortium of scientists and conservationists working towards preventing the extinction of the northern white rhino through advanced assisted reproduction technologies is pleased to announce that in March and April 2021, four additional northern white rhino embryos were produced at Avantea’s laboratories in Italy. This is the most successful series of procedures – from oocyte collection in Kenya to in vitro fertilisation and cryopreservation – the team of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Safari Park Dvůr Králové, Kenya Wildlife Service, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Avantea has ever conducted.
On March 28th, 2021, 19 oocytes were retrieved from Fatu’s ovaries using a probe guided by ultrasound, after the animal was placed under general anaesthesia. Fatu is the younger of the two northern white rhinos, Najin’s daughter and Sudan’s granddaughter. Both the anaesthesia and the ovum pickup procedure went smoothly and without complications. After incubating and maturing the egg cells at Avantea’s laboratory in Italy, 14 of them were fertilised with thawed sperm from deceased northern white rhino bull Suni using a procedure called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Four fertilised oocytes developed into viable embryos that are now stored in liquid nitrogen along with the five embryos already created in previous procedures. There are now a total of nine embryos, all derived from oocytes collected from Fatu.
In the near future, the embryos will be transferred to southern white rhino surrogate mothers to develop northern white rhino offspring.
Full press release is available here.