Saving the Northern White Rhino

There are only two Northern white rhinos left in the world, they are called Najin and Fatu and are both females. To save these charismatic animals from extinction seems impossible under these circumstances. An international project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) aims to make the seemingly impossible a reality and is developing methods of assisted reproduction and stem cell research under the leadership of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW). How? You can find out in the » extensive project description.


January 15, 2020
Newly created embryo nourishes hope for the survival of the northern white rhino
In August 2019 a team of scientists and conservationists broke new ground in saving the northern white rhinoceros from extinction. They harvested eggs from the two remaining females, artificially inseminated those using frozen sperm from deceased males and created two viable northern white rhino embryos. With great support from the Kenyan Government and in the presence of Hon Najib Balala, – Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife – the team repeated the procedure on December 17, 2019, and was able to create a new embryo over Christmas. This significantly increases the chances of successfully producing offspring. The procedure has proven to be safe and reproducible, and can be performed on a regular basis before the animals become too old. Preparations for the next steps of the northern white rhino rescue mission are underway. » more info

December 30, 2019
Seven Worlds, One Planet: BioRescue Mission is a part of the new BBC Documentary Series
The BBC is well-known for their outstanding and award-winning documentaries depicting our planet, its environment and man's relation to nature. The latest of these landmark series' is called "Seven Worlds, One Planet" and dedicated an individual episode to each on planet earth's seven continents. The closing episode "Africa" offers a stunning introduction to ecosystems of the continent and gives a glimpse of a changing world - a change that means huge challenges for wildlife such as the African rhinoceros species. The episode, as usual presented by Sir David Attenborough, briefly introduces the fate of the Northern White Rhino and our mission to save these magnificent creatures from exctinction. » more info

December 1, 2019
„In vitro fertilization is the single most important step in the conservation of endangered species“
The Sumatran Rhino and the Northern White Rhino are on the brink of extinction. Only a few days ago the last Sumatran Rhino in Malaysia, Iman, died after severe illness. Thomas Hildebrandt performed one of the last health assessments on Iman and attempted at collecting oocytes for assisted reproduction. He and his colleagues from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research want to help the remaining individuals of both Sumatran and Northern White Rhino to have offspring. In an interview with National Geographic Germany, Hildebrandt talks about assisted reproduction techniques for rhinos and disagreements within the IUCN about how to save endangered species. The interview was published on October 25, 2019 – only four weeks before Iman's death. » more info

September 22, 2019
From Grief to Hope: A Year with the Northern White Rhinos
Today is World Rhino Day. For the tenth time in a row people around the world celebrate these magnificent animals and remind all of us to spare no effort to protect them. For one kind of rhinos in particular the circumstances are inadequate for a celebration: For decades the story of the northern white rhinoceros has been a tale of decline. The number of individuals shrank down to only two in 2018, when the last World Rhino Day was celebrated. Complete extinction seemed to be only a matter of time. But since the death of the last male Sudan – an occasion for grief – in March 2018 there were signs of hope: Advances in science, unending devoted care, diplomatic breakthroughs, recent milestones in conservation … and an animal bodyguard! » more info

September 11, 2019
First ever in-vitro embryos may mark the turn of the tide in the fate of the nearly extinct northern white rhino
For decades the story of the northern white rhinoceros has been a tale of decline. The number of individuals shrank down to only two in 2018, rendering complete extinction as only a matter of time. An international consortium of scientists and conservationists has now achieved a milestone in assisted reproduction that may be a pivotal turning point in the fate of these magnificent animals. Using eggs collected from the two remaining females and frozen sperm from deceased males, they successfully created two northern white rhino embryos. The embryos are now stored in liquid nitrogen to be transferred into a surrogate mother in the near future. » more info

August 26, 2019
Northern White Rhino Eggs Successfully Fertilized
After successfully harvesting ten eggs from the world’s last two northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu, on 22 August in Kenya, the international consortium of scientists and conservationists has announced that seven of the ten eggs (four from Fatu and three from Najin) have successfully matured and been artificially inseminated. This was achieved through ICSI (Intra Cytoplasm Sperm Injection) with frozen sperm from two different northern white rhino bulls, Suni and Saut, on Sunday, 25 August. This is the next critical step in hopefully creating viable embryos that can be frozen and later transferred to southern white rhino surrogate mothers. » more info

August 23, 2019
Successful Egg Harvest Breaks New Ground in Saving the Northern White Rhinoceros
There are only two northern white rhinos left worldwide, both of them female. Saving this representative of megafauna from extinction seems impossible under these circumstances, yet an international consortium of scientists and conservationists just completed a procedure that could enable assisted reproduction techniques to do just that. On August 22, 2019, a team of veterinarians successfully harvested eggs from the two females who live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya — a procedure that has never been attempted in northern white rhinos before. The eggs will now be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull, and in the near future the embryo will be transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother. The successful procedure was a joint effort by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) Berlin, Avantea, Dvur Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). » more info

June 25, 2019
Last chance for the Northern White Rhinoceros: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports high tech for conservation with the BioRescue project
Today the research project BioRescue for the rescue of the Northern White Rhino, which is threatened with extinction, is officially launched. State-of-the-art reproduction and stem cell technology shall ensure the survival of this key species. The international scientific consortium, led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and with the significant participation of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MCD), is receiving around 4 million Euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the BMBF's biodiversity conservation research initiative. With the successful transfer of an embryo into the uterus of a Southern white rhinoceros at the end of May 2019, the research team has already reached an important milestone. The ethical and social questions arising from BioRescue will be addressed by the scientists in an accompanying research project. » more info