Saving the Northern White Rhino


The BioRescue project thrives on the exceptional collaboration of renowned specialists from various fields who put their experience and expertise at the service of the project's objectives.

Prof. Thomas Bernd Hildebrandt heads the department of Reproduction Management at Leibniz-IZW and is Professor of Wildlife Reproduction Medicine at Freie Universität Berlin. He studied veterinary medicine at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, received his doctorate summa cum laude from Freie Universität Berlin and is certified as a zoo, wildlife and game veterinarian. In his special field, reproduction biology, he is one of the pioneers of assisted reproduction in large mammals, including elephants, rhinos, big cats, and panda bears. He is represented in a number of professional societies, is Honorary Professorial Fellow Life Sciences at Melbourne University, Research Associate of the Smithsonian Institution (National Zoological Park), Fellow of the Zoological Society of San Diego Zoo, Scientific Associate of the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, Conservation Fellow of the Zoological Society London and Veterinary Advisor for the European elephant Taxon Advisory Group.

Dr. Frank Göritz is the head veterinarian of the Leibniz-IZW and senior scientist in the Reproduction Management Department. He obtained his 1st veterinary degree at Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin with subsequent veterinary licence to practice, and his 2nd veterinary degree (Dr. med. vet.) at Freie Universitäz with a doctoral thesis on ultrasonography in zoo and wild animals. Göritz is a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (MRCVS), London, UK and a European Veterinary Specialist in Zoological Medicine (Zoo Health Management) and DipECZM (ZHM). Göritz has received the 1st International Wild Animal Welfare Award from Four Paws International and has performed more than 600 sedations of rhinoceroses in his career - every single one successful.

Adj. Prof. Robert Hermes is a senior scientist in the Reproduction Management Department of Leibniz-IZW and Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney. He studied veterinary medicine at the Free University of Berlin, where he obtained his doctorate in 1998. Since 2000 he has been a senior scientist at Leibniz-IZW and a specialist in reproduction management and assisted reproduction of rhinos. In 2013 he qualified as a Professor on wildlife conservation medicine at the University of Vienna. He is a Diplomate of the European College of Zoological Medicine. His scientific work focuses on theriogenology in wildlife and rhinoceroses in specific.

Dr. Susanne Holtze is a postdoctoral scientist in the Department of Reproduction Management at Leibniz-IZW. She conducted her master's thesis in biology at the University of Queensland, Australia, holds a degree in veterinary medicine from Freie Universität Berlin, and conducted her PhD in biology at the Berlin NeuroImaging Center and the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences in Leipzig. In addition to a focus on wildlife reproductive biology and medicine, her research focuses on the physiology and aging of long-lived species.

Dr. Sebastian Diecke is the lead scientist at the stem cell platform of the Max-Delbrück-Center (Helmholtz Society) and author of 25 stem cell related high ranking publications. He was co-founder of the PluriCORE Network of German Stem Cell Core Facilities. In 2012 Dr Diecke received a DFG Postdoctoral grant where he spent three years at one of the leading stem cell lab of Prof Joseph Wu at the Stanford University. After Dr Diecke’s return he established the stem cell facility at the MDC and has been working in close collaboration with the Leibniz-IZW on the northern white rhino project since 2015.

Prof. Cesare Galli carried out his post-doctoral studies in Cambridge, UK, focusing on reproductive biotechnology techniques: in 1999 he obtained the first bull clone worldwide and in 2003 the first equine clone worldwide. Prof. Galli and his team from Avantea srl have set the standard for assisted reproduction in the equine industry. Today the Italian biotech company Avantea is a world leader in this field. They also carry out a remarkable amount of research in the field of assisted reproduction within national and international research projects. Beyond livestock breeding, he is working as well in the biomedical field, focusing on the development of animal models for xenotranspantation and medical research, on the investigation of stem cells for basic research and the development of alternative toxicological tests for the industry.

Prof. Katsuhiko Hayashi, a full professor of Kyushu University Japan, has been a leader in the field of gamete production in vitro from PGC. The Hayashi’s group developed a culture system that induces PGC and eggs from mouse ESCs/iPSC. Remarkably, the culture system can produce functional eggs from adult skin-derived iPSC, thus proving the feasibility of turning somatic tissues into eggs.

Jan Stejskal is the acting director of communication and international projects at the Zoo Dvur Králové. He has been directly involved in managing the NWR project since 2013.

Prof. Barbara de Mori has a Phd in Ethics and teaches Ethics in the scientific field at Padua University. She teaches conservation ethics and is in charge for the first training courses in Italy in Veterinary ethics and Animal Welfare Ethics. She is an Expert for section IV of the Italian Higher Health Council and Director of the Ethics Laboratory for Veterinary Medicine, Conservation and Animal Welfare of Padua University. She works extensively with European zoo organizations and internationally with partners in the field of conservation ethics in Republic South Africa. The main focus of these activities is on tools, methodologies and participatory approaches for the ethical review process (ERP) in conservation.

Steven Seet had five years an owner-managed full service advertising agency before he turned to science. At the Leibniz-IZW he heads the Science Communication Department and is responsible for Public Relations, Public Affairs, Scientific Events and Fundraising. He is a member of the Leibniz-IZW's science management team.