The birth of a southern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park may allow scientists to save the species on the brink of extinction.
On Sunday, a southern white rhino named Victoria gave birth to a healthy calf through hormone-induced ovulation and artificial insemination.
San Diego Zoo Global explained that the birth lasted 30 minutes and that both Victoria and the calf are doing well. It was the first successful artificial insemination birth of a southern white rhino in North America.
This scientific victory is important because it may help researchers save other species on the brink of extinction or nearing that status.
San Diego Zoo Global’s goal is to potentially utilize the southern white rhinos as surrogates to northern white rhinos, and to use “assisted reproduction” in order to save the species. Unfortunately only two northern white rhino females remain alive, impeding the survival of the species. The last male northern white rhino, Sudan, died earlier this year.
In order to achieve this goal there are many steps that need to be taken. From sequencing their genome to converting cells to stem cells and developing sperm and eggs. The process has already begun in the laboratory of Jeanne Loring, Ph.D., of The Scripps Research Institute. The researchers optimistically speculate that this could happen within 10 to 20 years.
As for Victoria and her newborn, they will be kept off exhibit to allow their bond to grow. Eventually they will join the other five female rhinos who are also under the care of the San Diego Zoo.
Additionally, another southern white rhino is pregnant through assisted reproduction and is due to give birth later this year.
The white rhino is classified as Near Threatened, and around 18,000 remain in the wild. The decline of the population is due to poaching and illegal trafficking of their horn. A rhino dies every eight hours in South Africa as a result of poaching, according to San Diego Zoo Global.
The public can help support San Diego Zoo Global’s rhino conservation efforts through the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy.