SAN DIEGO (CBS13) – A White Rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is pregnant and it could help save the species.
The southern white rhino was impregnated on March 22 through artificial insemination using the sperm from a male southern white rhino. Researchers hope a successful pregnancy will help genetically recover the northern white rhino. There are only two northern white rhinos on Earth and both are female.
Researchers with the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research have already sequenced the genome of the northern white rhino to see the genetic differences between the northern and the southern white rhinos. They then converted cells preserved from 12 northern white rhinos into stem cells that could develop into sperm and eggs. Eventually, reproductive options, including in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer, could be tried using southern white rhinos as surrogates. Researchers hope this could be an option in 10-15 years.
Rhino gestation lasts 16-18 months, meaning Victoria won’t deliver the calf until next summer.
“Just the fact that we have been able to confirm this pregnancy while the embryo is just a few weeks old is tremendously important and is all due to the work that animal care staff have put into developing relationships with these rhinos,” said Parker Pennington, a postdoctoral associate. “Through regular cooperative ultrasounds with Victoria, we will be gathering a lot of data about the progress of a rhino pregnancy – data that has never been gathered before.”
Victoria is one of six female southern rhinos that were relocated from South Africa to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in November 2015.