Oxford fertility scientists launch last-ditch bid to save 'extinct' rhinoceros

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Oxford University scientists have launched a last-ditch attempt to bring the Northern White Rhinoceros back from beyond the “point of no return” using IVF.

The team believes a pioneering treatment can prompt a revival of the persecuted species, despite the death last year of the last known male and the fact that the two remaining females, Najin and Fatu, cannot have calfs.

One of two subspecies of White Rhinoceros, the Northern Rhinoceros once ranged over tracts of Uganda, Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, the value of its horns saw it poached from a population of approximately 500 to 15 in the 1970s and 1980s.

A small recovery – numbers reached 32 – from the early 1990s was then reversed from 2003 when illegal hunting intensified again.

Mother and daughter, Nagin and Fatu now live in a heavily guarded semi-wild enclosure in Kenya, with their horns sawed off to deter poachers.

The Oxford researchers believe that it will be possible to remove ovarian tissue from the animals and stimulate it to produce eggs, which would then be fertilised from sperm preserved from male Northern White Rhinoceros.

The embryos would then be implanted into a surrogate mother of a similar species, probably a Southern White Rhinoceros.

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