May 24, 2018
By Steph Yin
When the last male northern white rhinoceros died in March, people mourned the beloved mammal’s step toward extinction.
With no members of the subspecies left in the wild and just two females remaining in captivity, it felt like the last bit of sand was draining through the rhino’s hourglass.
But several teams of scientists are working to flip the hourglass back over.
One group, led by researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, hopes to revive the northern white rhino using preserved cells. In a study published Thursday in Genome Research, the scientists sequenced the DNA of these cells and concluded that they hold a promising amount of genetic diversity for re-establishing a viable population of northern whites.
With the right advances in assisted reproduction or cloning, there could be a second chance for this “unique form of rhinoceros,” said Oliver Ryder, director of conservation genetics at San Diego Zoo Global.