Recently, the scientists of Berlin-based Leibniz-Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research announced the first-ever in-vitro fertilization (IVF) rhino pregnancy has been achieved by transferring a lab-made rhino embryo.

About IVF (in-vitro fertilization): 

  • Assisted reproductive technology (ART) includes in vitro fertilization (IVF), a key method for treating infertility.
  • The process entails creating an embryo outside of the body by fusing an egg and sperm, which is subsequently inserted back into the woman’s uterus for implantation and pregnancy.

Possibilities of IVF technology over rhinos:

  • In 2009, four northern white rhinos were relocated from a Czech Republic Zoo to a Kenyan reserve to reproduce naturally.
  • The two males, Suni and Sudan, have now perished, while the two females, Najin and her daughter Fatu, were found to be unable to reproduce due to pathological conditions. This meant that surrogacy was the only way to generate a northern white calf via IVF.

About White Rhinoceros:

  • White rhinos are the second-largest terrestrial mammal after elephants. 
  • Also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, white rhinos have a square upper lip with almost no hair. 
  • Adult males can reach 1.85 meters in height and weigh 3.6 tons. Females are much smaller, but can still weigh an astonishing 1.7 tons.
  • White rhinos are also known as square-lipped rhinoceros because their upper lip is square (rather than pointed). 

Life cycle:

  • White rhinoceros have complex social structures. Groups of up to 14 rhinos may form, particularly females with calves. Adult males defend regions of about 1-3 km2. Adult females’ home ranges can be over seven times bigger, depending on habitat quality and population density.
  • Females acquire sexual maturity at 4-5 years of age but do not breed until 6-7 years. Males typically do not mate until they are 10 to 12 years old. They can live for up to forty years.
  • Subspecies: The white rhinoceros has two genetically distinct subspecies, northern and southern, occurring in two different locations in Africa. 
  • The majority of white rhinos (98.8%) live in just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. 

IUCN status: 

Northern White Rhino: Critically Endangered.

  • Northern white rhinos were originally found in southern Chad, the Central African Republic, southwestern Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and northwestern Uganda. 

Southern White Rhino: Near Threatened

  • Southern white rhinos, which were once prevalent throughout southern Africa, were assumed to be extinct in the late nineteenth century, but in 1895 a tiny group of less than 100 individuals was discovered in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Other Rhino Species: 

  • Sumatran Rhino: The smallest among rhino species, Sumatran Rhinos possess two dark grey to black horns. Renowned for their speed and agility, these rhinos are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
  • Javan Rhino: With a population of approximately 60 individuals confined to Java, Indonesia, the Javan Rhino is the most endangered among the five rhino species. Sporting a dusky grey color and a single horn of up to 10 inches, it closely resembles the greater one-horned rhinoceros. It is also categorized as Critically Endangered.
  • Black Rhino: Native to eastern and southern African countries, the Black Rhino is the smaller of the two African rhino species. Distinguished by their browsing habits rather than grazing, they are herbivores. Unfortunately, they are also listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

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