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San Diego Zoo Gets Funding To Help Save Northern White Rhinos

Veterinarians are shown examining a northern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
San Diego Zoo
Veterinarians are shown examining a northern white rhino at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

San Diego Zoo Gets Funding To Help Save Northern White Rhinos
San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research received a $110,000 grant for its efforts to save the northern white rhinos.

San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research received a $110,000 grant for its efforts to save the northern white rhinos.

Only five rhinos remain in the world. One rhino is at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, three are at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya and one is at Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. All the rhinos are in their twilight years and none have ever reproduced.

The funding, which was awarded by the Los Angeles-based Seaver Institute, is a step in a larger plan to turn things around with geneticists from the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.

RELATED: Rhinos Near Extinction As San Diego Researchers Look For Answers

Researchers have living cells of 12 northern white rhino lineages stored in the Frozen Zoo at the San Diego Zoo.

They hope to convert some of the cells stored in the Frozen Zoo to stem cells. These could then be developed into sperm and eggs. Ultimately, the goal is to create an embryo that could be brought to term by a female southern white rhino.

“Multiple steps must be accomplished to reach the goal of establishing a viable population that can be reintroduced into the species range in Africa, where it is now extinct,” said Oliver Ryder, the institute's director of genetics. “A first step involves sequencing the genomes of northern white rhinos to clarify the extent of genetic divergence from their closest relative, the southern white rhino.”

For decades, San Diego researchers worked to breed northern white rhinos. But with only four aged individuals to work with, they were not successful.

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