Najin (R) and her daughter Fatu, the last two northern white rhino females, graze near their enclosure. File picture: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters
Najin (R) and her daughter Fatu, the last two northern white rhino females, graze near their enclosure. File picture: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

WATCH: Northern white rhino Najin retired from breeding programme aimed at saving the species from extinction

By Dominic Naidoo Time of article published Oct 26, 2021

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Najin, one of the world’s last two northern white rhinos, is being retired from a breeding programme aimed at saving the species from extinction.

A Biorescue team led by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany has been racing against time to save the world's most endangered mammal.

According to National Geographic, “The southern white rhino and northern white rhino are subspecies of the white rhino. Aside from living in different parts of Africa, they differ slightly in the shape of their teeth and heads, the appearance of skin folds, and the amount of hair. In general, southern white rhinos are a little larger and hairier.”

The International Rhino Foundation said that “white rhinos are seeing higher poaching levels than black rhinos, particularly in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, largely because they generally live in more open habitats where they are easier to target.

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Sadly, from 2012 to 2017, the poaching scourge led to a more than 15% decrease in white rhino numbers.”

32-year-old Najin and her daughter, Fatu enjoy a relatively peaceful life, safe in a large enclosure, protected by heavily armed rangers 24/7. Egg cells were harvested from both rhinos and, using frozen sperm from now-extinct males, the programme, aims to implant artificially developed embryos into another more abundant species of rhino in Kenya.

There are no known living males and neither of the two remaining northern white rhinos can carry a calf to term.

“The team has reached the decision to retire the older of the two remaining females, 32-year-old Najin, as a donor of egg cells,” Biorescue said in a statement, citing ethical considerations. Najin’s advanced age, and signs of illness, were taken into account, they said.

“We have been very successful with Fatu. So far we have 12 pure northern white rhino embryos,” David Ndeereh, the acting deputy director for research at the Wildlife Research and Training Institute, a Kenyan state agency, told Reuters. “We are very optimistic that the project will succeed.”

The team hopes to be able to deliver its first northern white rhino calf in three years and a wider population in the next two decades.

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