White Rhino Goes Extinct! Or Does It?

Photo from Flickr.com

Photo from Flickr.com

Aidan Comfort, Staff Writer

The biggest land animal is the African Elephant, but what is the second? Maybe the giraffe? No, the second-largest land animal is the Northern White Rhino, or should I say, was the second-largest land animal. In 2018 the species was classified as “functionally extinct” and currently, that still stands. There are only two left alive, both female and unable to have children. But, this species may just survive. “Scientists have used sperm from Sudan and another male that died earlier to fertilize two eggs from the females, Fatu and Najin, who now reside at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.” Alice George says in her article for the Smithsonian Magazine “The hope is that the breed can be revived after the fertilized eggs are implanted in a southern white rhino to gestate.”

Baby S. White Rhino

Photo from Flickr.com

To truly understand this beautiful species though, and why it has to be brought back, we have to understand where it lives and why it’s going extinct. Northern White Rhinos lived in the grasslands of Africa, grazing and living their best lives. Poachers would kill these majestic creatures, not for food, but their horns. A rhino’s horns are made of a material called keratin. Keratin, specifically from a rhino’s horn is very expensive so poachers kill the rhino, cut off its horn, and sell them. This is not the first time humans are to blame for the extinction of an animal either. We’ve brought the Wooly mammoth, dodo bird, Steller’s Sea Cow, Passenger Pigeon, Euration Aurochs, and the Great Auk to extinction. The worst part is, that’s only 6 of the 680 species we’ve driven to extinction that we know of.

Photo from Wikimedia.com

So, if we have driven the Northern White Rhino to extinction, we have to bring it back. But how? Well, as I said earlier, we breed. “After eight of Fatu’s eggs were fertilized, two were deemed viable, and were cryo frozen on Christmas Eve, bringing the total frozen embryo count to five,” Megan Bergman says in her article. Yes, the females can’t give birth, but this means there may be hope for the species. Having 5 embryos capable of being born on standby is amazing and means we could potentially revive the very species that we accidentally killed off. The major hiccup is that the two females can’t have babies, but there is a loophole. The egg is genetically a pure White Rhino, so if the embryo is injected into another species, it could give birth to the rhino and it’d still be a pure white rhino.

Photo from Wikimedia.com, taken by Chris Eason

So now that we have that hiccup out of the way, how do we prevent the extinction of other creatures like this? Well, they mentioned in an article that they have protections in place to protect the Northern White Rhino. “Keeper James Mwenda tells me,” Megan Bergman states in her article “He’s out in the Kenyan bush, swatting flies. The anti-poaching K-9 dogs bark in the background.” So, what if we put protection for endangered species in place? Although that’s not something you control. So what can you do personally? “You can donate towards WWF’s critical conservation work in Africa, including providing much-needed anti-poaching equipment and support for rangers across the continent,” the World Wildlife Foundation states on its page. Donating to Conserve the White Rhino. Donating to this foundation helps the cause as they use this money to help save endangered species and even raise their population. Rhinos are beautiful creatures and to see them go extinct is saddening. So, let’s do all we can to revive this beautiful species.

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Photo from Flickr.com