>> Scientists are hoping this breakthrough could help save the world's most endangered mammal from extinction. There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world, both are female. By using IVF techniques, scientists in Germany have managed to create hybrid embryos of the sub species and a close relative, the southern white rhino in a lab.
It's hoped the same technique can be used to create an embryo of a pure northern white rhino using eggs harvested from the two remaining females and implanted into a surrogate to progress to a live birth. March saw the death of the last male northern white rhino, Sudan. A large quantity of his semen is in storage along with that from three other bull rhinos.
But the sperms are relatively poor quality and can't be used for artificial insemination. However, the researchers say it can be activated with the right lab culture and used in IVF. While IVF has been used before in large mammals such as horses, the scientists say this work is the first to successfully develop rhino embryos in a test tube.
The hybrid embryos have now been frozen while a surrogate is found, where there's confidence they have a very high chance to establish a pregnancy. And while there's still many scientific hurdles to clear, researchers hope the fist northern white rhino calf will be born within three years.