1 Rhino, 50% of the Population
Najin, the older of the two remaining northern white rhino females living in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy was officially retired as a donor of egg cells (oocytes) under the Biorescue Project program aimed to recover the species.
This decision was an exceptionally difficult one for the experts as Najin represents 50% of the entire northern white rhino population they are trying hard to preserve, whilst importantly considering her welfare.
While attempting to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction, the BioRescue consortium has placed the highest value on respecting the life and welfare of the individual animals involved. This decision was arrived at after an in-depth ethical risk assessment, weighing up risks and opportunities for the individuals and the entire species rendering this decision without an alternative.
Oocyte collections in Najin have yielded only a few eggs to date, with none of them able to fertilise successfully into an embryo. Recent ultrasound examinations had revealed multiple small, benign tumours in Najin’s cervix and uterus as well as a large cystic structure in her left ovary. These findings might explain why oocyte collections were not as successful with her as they have been with Fatu.
Najin’s future role is ever more important as an ambassador of her kind, and to ensure that she can transfer her social knowledge and behaviour to offspring in the foreseeable future.
Further, stem cell-associated techniques (SCAT), the second pillar of the programme, nourishes the hope that in the coming years northern white embryos could be created from lab-generated gametes.
The hope for this species using advanced assisted reproduction technologies now lies with Fatu, Najin’s daughter.