One of the world’s last two northern white rhinos has been removed from a breeding program aimed at saving the species from extinction. The decision to discontinue the scheme was made with her age and other factors in mind. Najin, a 32-year-old rhino, and her daughter Fatu were both unable to carry a rhino calf to term.
According to the BBC, the decision to stop harvesting Najin’s eggs was made after an “ethical risk assessment.”
While the species’ last male died in 2018, the sperm that was collected was used to fertilize eggs.
BioRescue, the organization in charge of the scheme, stated that it had considered several risks before deciding to stop harvesting Najin’s eggs.
“Retaining one individual from a conservation program due to animal welfare concerns is usually not a question to ponder for long… but when one individual is 50 per cent of your population, you consider this decision several times,” said head veterinarians Frank Göritz and Stephen Ngulu.
Aside from her advanced age, ultrasound scans revealed multiple small, benign tumours on Najin’s cervix and uterus, as well as a cyst on her left ovary.
She will continue to participate in other schemes, such as providing tissue samples for stem cell research, despite the fact that she will not be a part of the breeding program.
It is also expected that she will be able to “transfer her social knowledge and behaviour” to her offspring in the future.
Northern white rhinos are on the verge of extinction as a result of poaching and habitat loss.
Najin was born in a zoo in Czechoslovakia. However, it was relocated to Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy a decade later. She has been living here under armed guard.
Northern white rhinos and southern white rhinos are the two subspecies of white rhinos. They’ve been dubbed ‘square-lipped rhinos,’ and they’ve been living under armed guard in Kenya. While the northern rhino population is only two, the southern rhino population is estimated to be around 20,000.