Available semen comes from only four males, including Sudan. After that, Vigne hopes Najin and Fatu will soon have company at Olpajeta. The researchers succeeded in the experiment about 20 times.
Researchers have created embryos from frozen white rhino sperm and eggs from their cousins the southern white rhino, another sub-species that has had its own remarkable bounce-back from the brink of extinction.
The paper states how "hybrid" rhino embryos can effectively be formed through IVF, after two decades of unsuccessful conventional methods of Assisted Reproduction Techniques. "In the past, we've really struggled to just produce two-cell embryos".
"The northern white rhino sperm, when they were thawed out, were not very good and had to be activated by an electrical stimulus", says Professor Renfree.
Stuart Pimm of Duke University says, 'This is a very ambitious, very courageous last-ditch effort to save some of the genetics of a spectacular animal'.
Zoologist say that due to the fact that the number of genuine reproduction material of northern white rhinos is limited to four individual donors, this dramatically narrows down the base required to create a viable population for maintaining sufficient genetic diversity. "Already, a half of the hybrid embryo genetic information comes from the NWR", comments Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at the Safari Park Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic.
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"The northern white rhino did not fail evolution, it failed because it was not bullet-proof".
His daughter and granddaughter, both of whom shared his home, are now the last two remaining members of the sub-species left alive.
While the scientists are confident about being able to harvest eggs from the two females, questions remain over the risk to the rare animals' health.
"Pluripotent stem cells have the ability to self-renew indefinitely and to develop into any cell of a living organism".
"Our goal is to have a northern white rhino calf on the ground in three years", he said.
Collecting unfertilized eggs is a harrowing business. He added: "This is the first step in a long journey to produce living offspring".
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In addition, researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research and the Scripps Research Institute are trying to create pluripotent stem cells using skin cells taken from a dozen northern white rhinos.
This procedure was meant to create a hybrid species capable of preserve both species, as shows a study published recently in Nature Communications.
Sudan, the northern white rhino's last male - once called the "most eligible bachelor in the world" by the dating app Tinder - died in March.
The San Diego Zoo's Ryder, along with Hildebrandt and other reproductive biologists, drew up a plan in Vienna in 2015 to rescue the subspecies.
The resulting egg was fertilized by sperm, taken earlier from Sudan and stored frozen. The animals must be anesthetized for two hours, "which is quite a risky situation". "We - at Avantea - successfully generated SWR embryonic stem cells with all the features of undifferentiated cells and a high capacity for differentiation in different cell lineages", Prof Cesare Galli reports.
"We thought, 'The story's over, '" said Dr Hildebrandt, a wildlife reproductive biologist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research and the Free University of Berlin. But we've still got a ways to go. The science is "very important", but it has to be paired with "working with local communities and politicians".
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