A research team at the University of Oxford has begun work to find a new way of saving the Northern White Rhino by using tissue taken from animal ovaries to produce potentially large numbers of eggs in a laboratory setting. Led by Dr Suzannah Williams, researchers working on the Rhino Fertility Project will refine the method that she has successfully demonstrated in mice. Rhino tissue is scarce and precious - however, ovarian tissue has been obtained by Dr Williams from a euthanased Southern White Rhino which provides the foundation for the work.
What is exciting about this research is that it could enable us to pull critically endangered species back from the brink by utilising ovarian tissue from old or injured animals to produce offspring. Dr Suzannah Williams added: ‘Some researchers are exploring the possibility of using the remaining Northern White Rhino sperm to cross-breed with Southern White Rhinos to create a hybrid population, but I think we should focus on preserving the Northern White Rhino as the unique species it is, and this project enables us to move directly towards this goal.
‘If successful, this technique would be a powerful tool in the global effort to conserve endangered species.’