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San Diego Zoo Works To Save Northern White Rhino

San Diego Zoo Works To Save Northern White Rhino

San Diego conservation officials are launching an ambitious plan to save the critically endangered northern white rhino.

San Diego Zoo officials are pushing forward with an aggressive effort the keep the northern white rhino from going extinct.

The zoo is committing $2 million a year to the effort. There are only four northern white rhinos still living. One of them lives in San Diego. The recovery effort is expected to take decades and could cost close to $100 million.

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Northern white rhino Nola lingers near a Safari Park truck, Jan. 16, 2015

Randy Rieches is the curator of mammals at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. He talked about the project with a group of elementary school students visiting the Safari Park.

"We want to be able to hand off a herd, a sustainable herd of northern white rhinos to some of these young kids here who are budding zoologists," said Rieches as he directly addressed the students. "We're hoping today that some of these young kids will take up the role of working with and being animal conservationists and that we are able to give them animals so we don't have to see them in a book."

The key to reviving the species lies with the six southern white rhino females brought to San Diego last week. They came from South Africa and will help researchers develop a plan for reproduction. San Diego Zoo researcher Barbara Durrant said the southern whites are very much like the northern white rhinos.

"Any technologies that we can develop and optimize for the southern white rhino, we can use directly for the northern white rhino," Durrant said. "We can also be using these young reproductive aged females, very healthy robust animals as surrogates for embryos from the northern white rhinos."

Those involved in the effort are optimistic that the project will succeed, but researchers are also realistic. Durrant said the technology to make the recovery effort successful has yet to be developed for large animals like rhinos.

You can read more about the plight of the animal here.

Reported by Nicholas Mcvicker

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