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January 18, 2019

[VIDEO] Hope as scientists race to save nearly extinct northern white rhino

'Sudan' as seen at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya on June 18, 2017.  /FILE
'Sudan' as seen at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya on June 18, 2017. /FILE

There is ray of hope for northern white rhino after scientists discovered a genetic analysis that may hold the key to saving the rhino's rapid descent into extinction.

Sudan, the world's last standing male northern white rhino, died in March. He was the last hope for the breed in the world.

The rhino was being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds.

With the death of Sudan, scientists have scrambled to find ways to save the subspecies.

A new DNA study shows northern white rhinos have mated and exchanged genes with the southern white rhinos in the past.

In turn, this would be a viable option if other methods of using pure northern white rhino genetic material fail.

In the study published in the journal proceedings of the Royal Society, co-author of the study Michael Bruford said experiments conducted in the lab between northern white sperm and southern white egg showed promising results.

He said one of the key avenues being pursued is a 'hybrid rescue' strategy, creating rhino embryos using sperm collected from northern whites before they died combined with eggs from the far more common southern variety.

"They are different but have had the ability to exchange genes in the past. This happened during the ice ages when African grasslands expanded, bringing the two populations into contact," he added.

According to the study, if reproductive technologies involving only northern white rhino genes fail, scientists could consider using southern white females for in vitro fertilisation.

Also read: Bleak future for Sudan, the last male northern white rhino on the planet

Ol Pejeta Conservancy previously asked the world to ensure that other rhino species and all wildlife thrive. The conservancy made the call following the death of Sudan.

Sudan was no ordinary rhino as he was was some kind of a 'celeb' who stole the hearts of many who came to Kenya. 

Via Twitter, the conservancy spoke of the two northern white rhino females left in the world. They are Najin, who is Sudan's daughter, and her daughter Fatu.

Read: Rhino Sudan's death should not be in vain, Ol Pejeta tells world

Also read: Half of African species 'face extinction'

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