Only two northern white rhinos remain on Earth — two females, Najin and Fatu. But all isn’t lost for the subspecies quite yet — scientists have hatched a scheme to save the rhinos and recently published their findings in a new study revealing preserved cells that could hold enough genetic diversity to seed a viable population.
Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have released a study that supports the idea that there are enough preserved samples from dead Northern White Rhinos that they believe they could restart the species. The last two existing females of the species would serve as the surrogates for the new rhinos. Alternatively, they could also use Northern Rhino DNA to create embryos and implant them into Southern White Rhinos to carry them to term. Basically, we are looking at “post-Jurassic park.”
All of this is now possible thanks to a survey of the collected genetic material that they currently have in cold storage. upon review, they found that there is more than enough to grow a self-sustaining population.
San Diego Zoo conservation geneticist Cynthia Steiner told Earther, “We know the southern white rhino was able to recover from very few individuals — between 20 and 50 individuals a century ago — to the numbers we have now, which is about 20,000. A similar recovery could be possible if we succeed with a genetic rescue of the northern white rhino.”
Interestingly, this plan is not without its detractors. There are some people that say saving the species through cloning and genetics could draw away attention from wild species that are still potentially salvageable through traditional conservation. Another issue is that the new Rhino population would probably be kept in captivity instead of being released into the wild where they would once again be at risk to poachers.