“Five years ago it seemed like the production of a northern white rhino embryo was an almost unachievable goal - and today we have them [...] This fantastic achievement of the whole team allows us to be optimistic over our next steps”, the director of communication at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, Jan Stejskal, said, cited by AP.
The Dvur Kralove Zoo is where the last two white rhinos called Najin and Fatu were born.
According to AP, the international team of scientists - led by Italy's Cremona Avantea Laboratories - has created two embryos of the near-extinct species. For the creation, researchers used eggs taken from the females and frozen sperm from dead males. Later those embryos were put in liquid nitrogen, to be transferred into a surrogate mother - a southern white rhino, AP said.
"Today we achieved an important milestone on a rocky road which allows us to plan the future steps in the rescue program of the northern white rhino”, Thomas Hildebrandt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany said, cited by AP.
Currently, the team of scientists are reportedly pursuing the ultimate goal of creating a herd of at least five animals that could be returned to their natural habitat in Africa. This aim, however, could take decades, AP said, citing the researchers.
Poachers and other criminals have hunted white rhinos for hundreds of years so as to sell horns on the global black market, where their value is higher than the equivalent weight in gold. In particular, the horns were widely used in luxury carving materials and also highly prized in non-traditional medicine worldwide for alleged healing qualities.