Rhino embryo could see return of northern white rhinos

Wednesday 04 July 2018


We are delighted to share news of the ground-breaking developments made by Helping Rhinos partner Ol Pejeta Conservancy and their partners at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo, Wildlife Research (IZW) and Dvur Kralove Zoo to revive the northern white rhinos, the most endangered mammals in the world.

northern white rhinos
sudan northern white rhino

For the first time ever, a team of scientists have produced a viable hybrid rhino embryo in vitro using a southern white rhino egg and frozen northern white rhino semen. This revolutionary work in assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) for rhinos is an amazing step forward for the recovery of the northern white rhinos as well as for other endangered species including the Sumatran rhino and Javan rhino.

Jan Stejskal, Director of International Projects at the Safari Park Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic, comments: “This research is ground-breaking. We are witnessing the development of a method that can help to compensate the negative impact of humans on nature. We hope that the current achievement will help us to convince more people as well as public authorities that this new approach is feasible and worth supporting.”


Scientists from the LIZWR will now go to Ol Pejeta for the ‘ovum pick up’ – harvesting eggs from Fatu and Najin, the last two female northern white rhinos in the world, to produce pure northern white rhino blastocysts where both eggs and sperm are from northern white rhinos.

Jan Stejskal explains, “The successful development of a hybrid embryo is a major step towards the first birth of a northern white rhino through artificial reproduction techniques. Already, a half of the hybrid embryo genetic information comes from the northern white rhino.”

Using ARTs is one way of rebuilding the species, but to ensure a large genetic diversity for the future northern white rhino population, scientists from Germany, Italy and Japan will combine this with stem cell research to provide a blueprint on how to save a highly endangered species where numbers have reduced so drastically that conventional conservation efforts are now almost impossible.

It is hoped that the procedure on Ol Pejeta will take place in the very near future and Helping Rhinos will be supporting their pioneering efforts.

northern white rhino Najin Fatu
sudan last northern white rhino


We were all devastated by the loss of Sudan on 19th March 2018, the last male northern white rhino, due to age-related illnesses resulting in the species becoming functionally extinct.

Helping Rhinos is working hard to ensure Sudan’s legacy is remembered long into the future and we continue to collaborate with our rhino conservation partners and support this scientific research that will hopefully create a future for northern white rhinos. Thanks to the continued dedication from scientists, conservationists and philanthropists across the world, the miracle of their revival may now actually become a reality.

Read Helping Rhinos’ tribute to Sudan here


Ol Pejeta continue to take the best possible care of female rhinos Fatu and Najin in Kenya and we are all looking to the future where a herd of southern whites will hopefully be selected to become surrogates for the northern white rhino embryos.

Helping Rhinos and Ol Pejeta Conservancy would like to thank all supporters for their ever-present encouragement and interest in preserving this species of rhino. We are all extremely excited about this huge scientific development and very much hope that we may see the return of the majestic northern white rhinos in their natural habitat, back in the wilds of Africa.

northern white rhinos
northern white rhinos Najin and Fatu


To support the ongoing care of Fatu and Najin, Helping Rhinos offers supporters the unique opportunity to adopt a northern white rhino. With a rhino adoption, you will be directly helping with the provision of 24/7 armed protection of the two remaining northern white rhinos in the world, giving them additional feed to maintain a healthy diet (especially important for harvesting healthy eggs) and ultimately creating a safe and natural habitat for these rhinos on Ol Pejeta, now and in the future.

Adopt Najin or Fatu