Migrants Flown To San Diego, Future Of Horton Plaza, Saving The Northern Rhino
KPBS Midday Edition / May 20, 2019
The U.S. Border Patrol announced Friday that it would being flying hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego for processing. Also, the city council will vote on a plan to turn Horton Plaza into a tech hub, San Diego researchers are working to save the northern white rhino from extinction, is the U.S. headed for a second civil war, and getting up close with a melting Antarctic glacier to understand the implications for sea level rise.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The U s border patrol is flying hundreds of migrant families from south Texas to San Diego. The move is an effort to even the workload for the border patrol sector in Texas, Rio Grande Valley, whose as they can't keep up with the surge of Central American migrants crossing into the u s they're joining me to discuss this new program is Kate Morrisey a reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Kate, welcome. Hi. Thanks for having me. Uh, the first flight of migrants arrived in San Diego on Friday. How many migrants will be processed here in San Diego under this program? So each flight, uh, we've been told has between 120 and 135 people on it. And we are currently supposed to be receiving three flights a week. So if you do the math, that's between 360 and 390 additional people a week. And these are all families. So some of those will be adults and some of those will be children.
Speaker 1: 00:51 And do we know how long this program is expected to last? We were told this is going to go on indefinitely. The, the phrase they used was a contingency program while this need is present in Texas and while the capacity is available here in San Diego. And can you talk to us about how the number of migrants coming to the Rio Grande Valley compares to the number coming here to San Diego? So they receive a much larger number of people than we do by five or six times more, more people sort of depending on the month. Last month we received maybe 6,000 and some people, 2000 or so of those were families. The Rio Grande was I believe in the 30 thousands 20 or 30 thousands in terms of the overall number of people. So it's, it's a big difference and it's notable to that between March and April. Numbers I believe went up in the Rio Grande Valley area and we actually saw a drop here in San Diego.
Speaker 1: 01:48 So we had less people arrived last month than we did the month before. So I guess ostensibly we have a little bit more wiggle room. And do we know why that is? I mean, why are we seeing a large number of migrants coming to the Rio Grande Valley? So that's actually a pretty long time trend. The Rio Grande Valley has been receiving, uh, the largest portion of people crossing the border for, for quite some time. As you may know, historically back in the day, San Diego was, was a much bigger draw, but with all of the, the added infrastructure at the border that shifted migration east into the desert and into Texas. And that's something that we continue to see to this day that it happens more. Uh, we see a lot more of the particularly illegal border crossings and other parts of, of the border. And can you walk us through the process? The migrants coming to San Diego will undergo.
Speaker 1: 02:38 Sure. So, um, they come here on a plane there, then bused to a border patrol station. And from there they go through pretty much the same thing that anyone caught crossing the border in the San Diego area would go through. They are processed by border patrol agents at the border patrol stations. Um, they stay in the holding cells while they wait for their turn in that process, they have their photos taken, they're fingerprinted, they're interviewed. Um, that's the point also at which if they're going to say, you know, I'm afraid to go back to my home country, I want asylum. Some version of, of that statement that's usually, usually when that happens is during that interviewing time, while they're there in the holding cells there just sort of waiting for, for all of these different parts of the process to happen. Um, there's some amount of, of background checking and checking of documents and things like that that that goes into the processing border patrol then hands them off to ice and ice is the agency that determines custody.
Speaker 1: 03:36 So whether they'll be released, whether there'll be sent to a detention center that's up to ice and if they're being released, ice has been tending to release. Family's very quickly. Often they end up at the San Diego rapid response network shelter that's here in downtown San Diego where there then helped to make connection with whoever it is they were hoping to stay with friends, family. And then they move on to their final destination. So it's, it's not likely that most of these folks will end up staying in San Diego. And how will, how will all of this impact the migrant shelter here? So it depends a little bit on, on how quickly border patrol is processing folks. You know, it just because 120 come on one day doesn't mean that that day or the next day, the same 120 we'll all be released. We don't really know how quick that turnaround is going to be, whether the shelter is going to receive them all in one day or over the course of several days.
Speaker 1: 04:33 The shelter has its capacity, but then it also has several churches that are, are willing to temporarily offer space on nights when the shelter is already at capacity or, or looking at being over capacity. So they do have some ability to shift what their capacity is on a given night if there's a bigger release than they can handle in their space. Um, so as far as far as what they've told me as of Friday, they said, you know, we're, we're going to keep handling this just like we've been handling the arrivals here. And uh, they, they made another push for, for there to be a more, a more permanent shelter established because this shelter as of right now is something that is, has, has the current space up until the end of this calendar year, um, through the county. But we don't know what it's, it's longterm fate will be. And do we know if some of them migrants coming to the area on these flights will be sent to Mexico under the migrant protection protocols program?
Speaker 1: 05:33 That's a great question. And I've asked border patrol have that question on Friday. I'm still waiting to find out what the answer to that question is. We don't know yet. And are there other areas of the country that are also receiving migrants from Texas for processing? So there are actually other sectors within Texas that are receiving some folks from the Rio Grande Valley area. Um, there are other parts of the, that my understanding is it's, it's up for discussion. There's, there's, um, planning going on about whether it would be possible to send them to some sections of the northern border as well as Florida, but there's nothing concrete in place yet to say yes, that's happening. I've been speaking with Kate Morrisey, a reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune. Kate, thank you so much. Thank you.
Speaker 2: 06:21 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 Is it time for Horton Plaza to become the campus at Horton San Diego City Council members. Today we'll consider a plan to convert the faded downtown shopping mall into a mixed use office campus for tech companies. The new developers have pledged to $275 million makeover of this site, but they need the city councils. Okay. To move forward. Journey me as Jennifer ran grove who covers growth and development for the San Diego Union Tribune. Jennifer, welcome to the program. Hi Maureen. Now the new owners, Stockdale capital partners, bought the property from Westfield last summer. Can you remind us what the new owners of Horton Plaza wanting to
Speaker 2: 00:41 do with it? So they want to turn the Horton Plaza Mall into a office campus primarily for tech companies. And so the idea would be to what's called in developer parlance, adaptively reuse the buildings, but they would strip it down at two. It's not some bolts and kind of rebuild around their, their office vision and have pretty much everything on the site be office except for the ground floor, which would be retail and in their vision, retail is food. And Beverage, some fitness boutiques and, and maybe some shops, but, but mostly food and beverage.
Speaker 1: 01:18 What is Stockdale need the, okay. The city council to move forward?
Speaker 2: 01:22 Well, it's very complicated. So when they bought the property, they inherited what's called a owner participation agreement. And that agreement in various shapes and sizes dates back to 1981. But the reason that it's there is because the city's sold the land where Horton Plaza is today to Ernie Han who developed the shopping mom and in that document where restrictions on how that that land could be used in part because the city sold the land for $1 million in it, spend about $33 million acquiring the buildings on that site. And so they wanted to make sure that there was primarily we tell on that site so that they could generate in a separate, through a separate agreement, um, income from, from rental rates with the tenants at Horton Plaza. And so the agreement has changed hands over the, uh, over the time and now Stockdale is coming in and their concept is very light on retail. But in order to change the documents and, and get the retailers striction um, removed, they have to get approval by city council.
Speaker 1: 02:34 So according to negotiations that have already been underway with the city staff, what could the city get out of the deal in terms of security and density at the side?
Speaker 2: 02:45 So it's, it's nuanced but uh, Keyser Marston associates, um, they put together a report that tries to estimate the value of this deed restriction changed. So that's what we're talking about here. Um, we're talking about changing the restriction from 600,000 square feet of retail to 300,000 square feet of retail with provisions that allow the developer to reduce retail to 200,000 square feet and even zero depending on density. So that value Keyser Marston and placed at 6.7 $6 million. And so essentially that's a loss to the city through whatever council votes today could be replaced by Stockdale in the agreement that the council will be voting on is essentially through Stockdale paint, paying for additional security at Horton Plaza Park. And also through, by extending the lease of the lyceum theater, which is in the basement there at Horton Plaza, they pay a dollar rent per year and they have a longterm lease in effect. But if Stockdale, um, extends that elite lease, then there'll be given credit and there's this very complex formula. But essentially the number, the magic number that stock deals trying to get to with security and extending the lyceum lease is the 6.7 $6 million.
Speaker 1: 04:02 No. From the experts you've spoken to, what do they say about what kind of impact the campus at Horton project might have on the rest of the area and the rest of downtown?
Speaker 2: 04:13 Well, there are, you know, there are a number of people who believe that the impact to downtown will be significant. So right now we have a mostly dead retail space. Um, and urban planners agree that dead space attracts negative, you know, negative use. Right? And so, and adaptively reusing that there is, you know, not only the potential to just make that area nice, but as far as, you know, bringing in a high caliber of company that maybe doesn't already have a presence in San Diego. Um, if one big tech whale, if you will have one of those comes to San Diego signs a lease at the campus, they'll Horton, then the thinking is more will follow. And so there will be this trickle effect of where we have, you know, very high tech, very celebrated companies establishing a presence in downtown and somewhat changing the character and, and uh, creating jobs for workers who already lived downtown, which in theory could affect, um, traffic for, for the better. And, and kind of, so a lot of downtown leaders talk about this reverse commute where people work downtown and they commute to the Golden Triangle. Will this would effectively help to reduce that?
Speaker 1: 05:27 There must be obstacles of facing this project. What are some of those?
Speaker 2: 05:32 No, that, you know, anything's really going to get in the way of city councils vote today, but there are going to be vocal opponents at the meaning and that includes Jimbos and Macy's, which our tenants at the mall right now, they are still in their spaces and they don't oppose redevelopment. However, both feel that they've been left in the dark as to the developers planning here. And there are some, um, contentious issues, uh, between the tenants and the developer. And those will play out for the public today. Beyond that, I think some of the historical preservation is here in town still have concerns that they might voice through, um, the saver heritage organization, which will probably have representative to speak today. And, and their concerns are about the buildings. Um, so that group is in contact with the developer and they are talking. However, there's, there's concerns that maybe some of it's postmodern features will disappear if too much changes in, in this redevelopment.
Speaker 2: 06:34 Do you have a sense how the council members are feeling about the proposal? Well, I think the biggest indicator is the, um, Edi are so the economic development and in our governmental relations committee, they voted unanimously about a month ago to send this on to council for consideration. And so I would say that we should look to that, um, as an indicator of what's going to happen today. That would be my best guess is that most likely this is going to pass and it's going to pass, maybe not unanimously about with most council members voting strongly in favor of it. I've been speaking with San Diego Union Tribune reporter Jennifer van Grove, and Jennifer, thank you so much. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 00:00 There's been an increase in violent domestic terrorism, like the mass shooting at the Habad of Poway, the mosque burned in Escondido, the mass shootings in a Pittsburgh synagogue in Charleston AME church. The frequency of these attacks are an indication of a possible second civil war in the United States. According to Barbara F. Walter, who is a university of California San Diego political scientist who studies civil wars. Her expertise has been sought by the US State Department, the CIA and others. She joins me now via Skype to talk about what many would call a chilling warning for our country. Barbara, thank you for speaking to midday addition. Thank you for inviting me. What got you thinking the United States may be headed towards a civil war?
Speaker 2: 00:43 I started thinking about a second civil war here in the United States when people started asking me about it and they started asking me about it as early as 2016 and back then I said, no, we know actually know a lot about why civil wars start and where they start and why they started at particular times. And, um, the United States back in 2016 had none of the risk factors associated with the outbreak of civil war. So I didn't think Americans would fight each other. Again. One of the big surprises though over the last two years is how quickly things have changed. The two biggest factors that are associated with the outbreak of civil war, our transitions to and from democracy, yes, democracy and increasing fractionalization in societies. So when populations become more polarized, either ethnically, racially based on religion or class, and both of those features have emerged relatively quickly over the last few years.
Speaker 1: 01:47 And you know, we're seeing trends emerge, one of them being the violence and the white supremacist violence particularly, how does that tie into the risk factors for civil rights?
Speaker 2: 01:57 When experts who study civil wars, when they see things like an air rise of extremism, and here are the United States and in other Western democracies, we have seen an increase in the rise of right wing extremism. When we see the, an increase in the number of militias and violent militias, these are all, um, all things that tend to happen very early on. And they're sort of the precursors to more organized forms of violence.
Speaker 1: 02:30 And would you characterize those forms of violence? Has Political violence? Do all of them fall under that umbrella?
Speaker 2: 02:37 Really interesting. Most people, when when you talk to them or when reporters writes stories about, let's say Timothy, Mick Fay, oftentimes they're portrayed as crazy. They're portrayed as lone wolfs. These are isolated incidences. But if you dig deeper, oftentimes there is either an explicit political motive or an implicit political motive.
Speaker 1: 03:02 And Democrats have said this country is in a constitutional crisis. Would you characterize our state of democracy that way? And if so, is that also a factor in pushing us closer to civil war?
Speaker 2: 03:13 The reality is is our constitution, it can be quite vague on many important issues and doesn't detail all of the possible scenarios, hi, which our democracy could come under attack. And so what we're seeing now is that the vagueness or the areas that aren't detailed provide loopholes for individuals or groups of individuals who want to gain additional power, who want to exploit the system. And so one of the questions people ask me all the time as well, how would a civil war breakout here could a civil war break out if a president loses and election for example, and refuses to leave the White House? And it was interesting because I actually didn't know what the procedure was for escorting a president out of the White House if that's what it came to. And it turns out the constitution doesn't either. And so if you have a president, for example, who is willing to buck convention, who is willing to challenge longstanding norms, basic of what that person is doing is daring, daring the system to try to figure out how to respond. And of course where there's uncertainty, there is opportunity and there's potential chaos.
Speaker 1: 04:37 You don't necessarily think the US is actually heading towards a second civil war. So why do you think it's important to talk about this?
Speaker 2: 04:46 It's really important to talk about this because I think if, if we ignore the risks, if we ignore the hazards that are beginning to emerge or we're distracted by something else, which we are, and I'll talk about that in a second. If we're distracted by something else, then while we're looking at one shiny object to our right, really bad things could be happening to our left and suddenly we're in our situation where we're not just a flawed democracy but we are really a democracy in deep trouble. We're not just polarized but we are organizing more and more and we are preparing for civil war until one day it does explode and we don't want to be taken by surprise. And right now what we are distracted by, and we have been distracted by this since September 11th is international terrorism and is L'amec extremism. And what we have not done a particularly good job at is looking at extremism within our own midst.
Speaker 2: 05:52 More people have been killed in the last two years by a domestic terrorists, by right wing terrorists then have been killed by any other form of terror. So right wing extremism is growing much faster than other forms of extremism. Violence on the right is growing, and if we continue to focus almost exclusively on international terrorism, on Isis, on, I'll tida on the potential threat of Islamic extremism. Um, and it's much harder for those individuals to operate here in this country to the exclusion of our own home grown right wing extremism, then we really could potentially get ourselves in trouble. I've been speaking with Barbara F. Walter, who is a university of California San Diego political scientist who studies civil wars. Barbara, thank you so much for joining us. It's my pleasure. Thank you.
Speaker 3: 06:52 Okay.
Speaker 1: 00:00 It's a one of a kind of adventure with a bittersweet edge, a scientific expedition to the bottom of the world allowed researchers to get a rare view of the Thwaites glacier, which juts out of the West and Arctic ice sheet, the view was thrilling and other worldly, but the real world implications of the research could be devastating. This Florida sized glacier is melting and it has the potential by itself to cause sea levels to rise two feet. We're joined today by a reporter who was onboard the research ship than Nathaniel be Palmer as it sailed off the coast of Antarctica. Carolyn Beeler, environment reporter for PR eyes. The world is with us from the Wgbh studios in Boston and Caroline, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having me. Now we've all seen pictures of glaciers, but you and the crew were so close to this magnificent ice structure. Can you try to describe what that was like?
Speaker 2: 00:56 Sure. So we were on this ship, this icebreaker sailing through the southern ocean and toward Antarctica for about a month before we actually got to the glacier due to delays and other research happening. So the anticipation was really high. And we finally arrived at the face of weights glacier, about 4:00 AM so it was still dark. And I walked up to the bridge on the fifth deck to look at this glacier and it looked like a giant wall of ice, about six or seven stories tall. And at the time it was still dark, so it was sort of glowing, this ethereal blue, and it was really kind of felt magical to be up there. And I was standing next to an oceanographer or named Peter Sheehan, who works the night shift. So he was one of the, a few other people up and we sort of found ourselves whispering in front of this glacier and we didn't really know why
Speaker 3: 01:52 this your first glimpse of it. Yeah. I don't see a nice shelf before really close. Yeah.
Speaker 4: 02:02 Almost no one else on the ship is awake yet. And we're in a place that no one's ever been before,
Speaker 3: 02:07 or maybe it's the light and it was kind of mystical.
Speaker 4: 02:12 It feels almost like it's our own secret place. This kind of sacred spot. I'm whispering and I don't know why,
Speaker 3: 02:25 it's like standing in a cathedral. I gotta you feel the hush of reference.
Speaker 2: 02:31 So this was this magical moment, first thing in the morning. But as we sell a long waits and went further west where the glacier is more of damaged and degrading, the experienced scientists on the ship all noticed that it didn't look like an ice shelf is supposed to look.
Speaker 1: 02:47 So you were actually able to see evidence of the glacial melting or instability of the ice show?
Speaker 2: 02:55 Yeah. So you know, scientists are cautious folks and they'll say, you know, you can't tell everything about the health of a glacier just by looking at it. But it was something that the scientists on board had never seen before. Instead of this tall ice cliff that looks kind of like, I don't know, the top of a butcher block table or something. The ice shelf actually started slumping down toward the sea, kind of like a sledding hill. Um, and in places that looked like a bunch of craggy, blocky icebergs all sort of frozen together. So the scientists started calling this not the ice shelf, which is the name for the part of the glacier that extends out into the sea. But, um, they started using a different word for it. I'm Alon [inaudible], which means pieces of the glacier that have broken off and frozen back together.
Speaker 2: 03:40 So, you know, there's this question about if we were even looking at the ice shelf anymore, um, and if it was providing any of the stabilizing force that that is the reason why this ice shelf is important. So it was very surprising to me that the experts on this glacier didn't even expect it to look like it did. What was the goal of this particular expedition? So this was the first field season of a five year, roughly $50 million effort to better understand what's happening at the weights. Um, as I mentioned, the front of the glacier that extends out into the CX, like a stabilizing force that acts like a, the cork of a wine bottle keeping inland ice from flowing out glaciers flow, which is kind of the first thing you need to know about glaciers and why they matter, but it's melting and this ice shelf is thinning and it's losing its ability to act like a cork.
Speaker 2: 04:36 And scientists are trying to figure out how fast it's doing that and how much and how fast it's going to add to global sea levels. Um, because you mentioned in your intro that waits itself could add up to two feet of sea level rise, which could happen, you know, by the end of the century. But it also is holding back a bigger portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which could lead to something like 11 feet of global sea level rise. What specific conditions are causing the glacier to melt? Or we talk so much about climate change, but what is it specifically? Is it the warming of the ocean? So actually it's interesting because it's not what you might think in this particular ice shelf. So right now what scientists think is that a warm ocean currents are reaching the underside of this floating ice shelf and melting sweets, but it's not so much because the oceans are warming.
Speaker 2: 05:33 Um, although you know, they are a little bit in this part of the world, it's because a warm layer of ocean water that's existed out in the deep water for a long time that's moved down toward Antarctica, um, by currents is now getting up onto the continental shelf in front of Antarctica and thus reaching the ice. So it's because of changing currents and changing wind patterns. Now a lot of scientists think there is a link between these changing winds, these strengthening westerly winds, but it's just such an unstudied area and there's very limited data. You know, the climate change link is not yet clear. However, when we talk about this future of potentially 11 feet of sea level rise, that will be happening because of atmospheric warming that's projected for the future. So it is a climate change issue
Speaker 1: 06:25 and give us an idea, 11 feet of sea level rise that would impact coastal cities around the world. Isn't that right?
Speaker 2: 06:33 That's absolutely right. Something to picture perhaps is what lower Manhattan looked like after Hurricane Sandy. Um, when we saw all this flooding down in lower Manhattan, that's something like what 11 feet of sea level rise wouldn't look like actually a bit more. That would be the new sort of base level. And that's why scientists are rushing to better understand how quickly the sea level rise might come because it's one thing to have this massive sea level rise, but it's another for it to come quickly, which is a concern here. So the idea is the ultimate goal of this research project is really to allow coastal communities and cities, um, to know when to expect the sea level rise so they can plan. Because you know, they're, they will be building infrastructure to deal with these, these projected sea level rises.
Speaker 1: 07:22 Carolyn, I was wondering, how dangerous was this trip? I mean it must have been an amazing experience, but is it something that you would sign up for again?
Speaker 2: 07:31 100% absolutely. It was a once in a lifetime experience, both personally and professionally as a climate change reporter. You know, you see really amazing formations in the ice and ice takes on colors and textures that you never thought it would. Of course there is a somberness to the mission because of the importance of it. But the national science foundation who charters the ship that I was on, um, you know, they're very careful and they're very experienced in these extreme conditions and they take safety extremely seriously. So there are a lot of rules. There are a lot of safety precautions, there are a lot of drills and there is an inherent risk and being so far from any other human. But, um, you know, I was not worried for my own safety at all during this, this expedition.
Speaker 1: 08:19 Well, we'll hear your latest report on prs the world later today. Can you give us an idea of what part of the expedition you'll be covering in that report?
Speaker 2: 08:27 Absolutely. So one of the most exciting projects that was happening on this ship was a Swedish oceanographer named Anna Volin was, uh, working to send an orange submarine and AUV down underneath the ice shelf at the weights. Now, this is a place that no one's ever seen before that, uh, no scientific instrument has ever been before. And this submarine had, had never been in Antarctic waters before this field season. So there were a lot of trials and tribulations on the way as she worked to see if she could actually get this thing under the ice shelf to measure how much warm water was getting there. And we'll be hearing that later today. I've been speaking with the world's environment reporter, Carolyn Beeler. Carolyn, thank you so much. You're very welcome.
Speaker 5: 09:11 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego Zoo researchers are caring for two pregnant southern white rhinos that are a key part in the plan to save the critically endangered northern white rhinos. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson finds the effort may be getting some help from a Uc San Diego robotics researcher
Speaker 2: 00:21 ready.
Speaker 3: 00:22 Marco Xeno has worked with the six rhinos since they arrived in 2015 nice job. They're 22 hour flight from South Africa was the first leg of a long journey that is far from over. It is pretty amazing that these animals used to be, you know, out essentially in the wild and to come from a place where they had almost no human interaction to here and work so closely with us every day. Yeah, it's very surprising. Xeno says the animals are friendly and approachable. Although he says they work under strict guidelines. All contact is through a protective barrier even so there's no hesitation to put an arm through the fence to encourage a behavior. Yup. Ready?
Speaker 4: 01:03 Here we go. Open air. It is good
Speaker 3: 01:08 girl. Another nice teeth. Very good. Showing teeth is valuable, but the rhinos are here for a different reason. Reproductive physiologist. Barbara Duran says she hopes to eventually implant northern white embryos in these six rhinos. The first step is to impregnate each of them by artificial insemination.
Speaker 2: 01:30 That will tell us that those females now are proven females. They're capable of conceiving. They're capable of carrying a term pregnancy and giving birth. Then we can start to use those animals after they've weaned. They're babies will start to use those animals for practicing embryo transfer.
Speaker 3: 01:48 Darren's team was successful twice. The first and semination happened a year ago here. Duran showed KPBS a live ultrasound picture of a 53 day old fetus inside Victoria.
Speaker 4: 02:01 And then her, this is her body and she'll turn a little bit. You can see her feet.
Speaker 3: 02:08 The fetus was about the size of a Aa battery back then.
Speaker 2: 02:12 We watched it grow. We were doing measurements. We could see as the the limb buds were forming. We saw the heart for me. Um, and then it now it's so big that it is not up close where we can see it, it has fallen down into her abdomen. So it's way down in here. Now,
Speaker 3: 02:28 Duran says the baby is so big now that it's too hard to get a full picture on an ultrasound machine. The rent guesses. The Rhino is the size of a laundry basket. Now, although it's admittedly hard to gel
Speaker 2: 02:41 and you can't tell from the outside that she's pregnant unless you're lucky enough to see the baby kick, which we often can see from the outside.
Speaker 3: 02:48 The next crucial point comes in a month or two. Duran says Victoria will probably become restless and move away from the other rhinos when she's ready to deliver.
Speaker 2: 02:58 It's normally not
Speaker 3: 02:59 terribly long. You know in humans you often hear about women being in labor for hours, 10 hours, 20 hours, 30 hours. That doesn't, that does not happen with these animals and you can understand why in the wild that would not be a good thing to have a prolonged labor in the wild because the ama would be debilitated and would be subject to predation. Yeah, Victoria and another rhino, Amani were both artificially inseminated. Money is due in about five months and Duran hopes three more rhinos will be pregnant soon. Nice Tab. The next stage involves implanting an embryo that's conceived in the lab, but there's an obstacle. The rhinos birth canal presents a problem.
Speaker 2: 03:41 It's very deep within the abdominal cavity, which makes it difficult to access as well, but it has a number of cartilaginous rings, the interlock this way, so there's no clear pathway through the cervix when you want to deposit seaman or an embryo into the uterus.
Speaker 3: 03:59 The cervix opens up a bit when the Rhino was in heat allowing to rent to use a long straight metal catheter for artificial insemination, but that won't work for embryo implantation.
Speaker 2: 04:10 The embryo is going to be growing in vitro or in the lab for about 10 to 12 days. So the cervix of this animal, these recipients is going to be closed. So the only way we're going to be able to get through that cervix is with something that's not rigid and something that we can steer from outside the animal
Speaker 3: 04:29 that something is being developed about 30 miles away in a robotics lab on the UC San Diego campus. Professor Michael Yip is working on a tool that will help navigate the rhino cervix and deliver an embryo to the animals. Uterine hard.
Speaker 5: 04:44 The idea is that you have a long flexible device, uh, with tendons that run through, um, the end all the way to the handle and we can pull on those tendons like you were marrying at a pipette. But in this case, we're actually deflecting the end of this robotic tool.
Speaker 3: 05:02 Yup. It is modeling the new tool on endoscopes that can be used to inspect a person's colon or lungs without creating an incision. The Rhino version is much smaller. Once the devices inserted, the catheter can be maneuvered until it reaches a target location.
Speaker 5: 05:19 The animals might have several different pathways for their reproductive system, much like the Rhino, where they have two different uterine horns and you're trying to make sure that you're entering the right channel versus the other.
Speaker 3: 05:31 So for this demo, we're using this kind of three d pen. So the idea is undergraduate student renal Virgie's is helping you work out different controllers. The finished product could end up being like a gaming controller and electronic pen or a small knob on a handheld device, which seems to be the most promising prototype for, he says the camera plays an important role. Yeah. So we actually use the camera as part of our system. Um, and because these things are so hard to control, using that camera gives it a little bit of feedback and it gives us a little better idea of how we're moving. The narrow tube on. This device is hollow and the tiny camera is threaded through it. Yep. Says that allows the team to see the rhinos narrow and twisting cervix as it moves along.
Speaker 2: 06:17 Once you get the device articulated into the right location, past the cervix, into the uterine horns of the rhino, you can actually use that hollow channel to flush through, um, uh, the, the genetic material.
Speaker 3: 06:32 If successful, the procedure will be groundbreaking because it's never been done on a rhino. Duran says the first attempts will be with southern White Rhino Embryo is conceived in the lab.
Speaker 2: 06:43 Once we've gotten the efficiency, worked out the kinks, so to speak with the instrumentation, and we feel confident in our technique. That's when we'll take one of those very precious northern white rhino embryos and put it into one of these southern white rhinos.
Speaker 3: 06:58 Duran says the zoo has cell lines from 12 different northern white rhinos stored in a repository known as the [inaudible]
Speaker 6: 07:04 frozen zoo. Geneticists are working on the protocols that turn the frozen tissue into reproductive cells. If both teams are successful, the project could help bring the northern white rhino back from the edge of extinction.
Speaker 1: 07:20 Jamie is KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Hi Eric. Hi Maureen. There are a lot of endangered species in the world. A UN report recently said a million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction. So what was the San Diego Zoo working so hard to preserve this particular rhino?
Speaker 6: 07:40 Well, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that when there were only five of these northern white rhinos on the planet, two of them were living here in San Diego. They had a pair that live there and kind of pulled on the emotional heartstrings and, and helped a little bit, uh, kind of, uh, motivate the team there I think at San Diego Zoo global, um, to, to move forward with this effort. But also, uh, because the community had a connection. Uh, it may have also helped with some fundraising efforts to, because this is a very expensive effort.
Speaker 1: 08:12 Could the same methods and technology be used to preserve other species?
Speaker 6: 08:16 I think the interesting thing about what they're doing here, they're doing stuff that's very specific to the Rhino, so I'm not sure how that will translate in to another species, some of the reproductive work that they're doing. Uh, but some of the genetic work that they are doing can definitely be applied in other species. If there's a repository of a species that is hovering on the brink of extinction or it may already be extinct, but there's this repository of cellular material and they work out the protocols to not only take things like skin cells, turn them into pluripotent stem cells, and then create a reproductive cells and create embryos that you can implant into a another closely related species. Yeah. Those things could all be translated into, into different species and it may end up being that, uh, there are species that are kept from going extinct because of this and possibly there are other species that might be brought back from extinction.
Speaker 1: 09:17 No. If there were ever enough new northern white rhinos to introduce back into the wild, where would they go?
Speaker 6: 09:25 Ah, very good question. I think that there is habitat available to them. Uh, one of the reasons why they were, uh, so troubled is because there was war, a political, you know, geopolitical unrest in the area that they considered habitat. Uh, but there are other places where they could survive. There are large game reserves, um, through where they have southern whites in the northern part of Africa, uh, where they could release these rhinos into the wild if it ever got to that point. Um, they will force, have to have a sustainable population before they did something like that. I'm sure there would be safeguards there to make sure that they're protected because they will be extremely valuable. But the advantage of having such a big animal that's being watched over and cared for is they require a lot of habitats of the umbrella is pretty big. Right? So if you're protecting the, the northern white rhino in the wild, you're also protecting a large swath of habitat that in turn protects other species as well.
Speaker 1: 10:25 I've been speaking with KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson. Eric, thank you. My pleasure.