Eggs harvested from last northern white rhinos in bid to save the species

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sejal Karia

Experts have said there is hope to prevent the extinction of the northern white rhino because they successfully extracted eggs from the last two remaining females.

The groundbreaking procedure was carried out on Thursday in Kenya on the northern white rhinos known as Najin and Fatu who cannot carry a pregnancy.

The eggs will be used to reproduce the species through a surrogate.

Fatu and Najin are fed some carrots by a ranger in their enclosure at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. Credit: AP

Richard Vigne, CEO Ol Pejeta Conservancy, said: "We are left with two remaining females, as I say both are unable to get pregnant, so the only remaining option to recover this species is through in vitro fertilisation.

"In vitro fertilisation is something which is commonly practiced in humans and cattle and various other species but it has never ever been done on rhinos before."

The joint effort by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Avantea, Dvur Kralove Zoo, Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service saw a team of vets successfully harvest a total of 10 eggs from the rhinos.

"Our expectations have been exceeded by getting five ozites from each and we are really hoping and crossing fingers that we get at least one, two, three, four if not even more embryos from this one collection," said Dr Robert Hermes, a scientist at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Female northern white rhinos Najin, 30, left, and Fatu, 19, right, are the last two northern white rhinos on the planet Credit: Ben Curtis/PA

The eggs are to be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino bull and then transferred to a southern white rhino surrogate mother.