Scientists hope to create the first test tube rhinoceros, one of the most endangered species on Earth, to prevent its imminent extinction. The northern white rhino's total population worldwide is down to just three.
Sudan, a male northern white rhino, is believed to be the sole male survivor of this species. Poachers are seen as culprits in the marked reduction of white rhino's population. Their ivory horns were sold for big money in Asia.
Due to its old age, Sudan cannot mate with the two other female rhinos in Ol Pejeta wildlife conservancy in northern Kenya. Fortunately, he is not too old as scientists found that he can still reproduce.
A third female white rhino in San Diego zoo, Nola, died at 41 years old, bringing to number of species around the world to just three. In 1960, there were still 2,000 rhinos remaining in southern Chad, Central Africa, south western Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and northwestern Uganda. However, constant poaching for their ivory horns led to their extinction in the wild since 2008.
Rhino's ivory horns are in demand in Asian countries like Vietnam. Aside from using it for medicinal properties, it reflects a symbol of wealth for upper-middle class citizens in Vietnam. In an effort to protect Sudan, he is under a 24-hour watch by armed rangers in the conservatory.
Sudan's ivory horn was removed to prevent poachers from killing it.
"The only reason his horn has been cut off is to deter poachers. If the rhino has no horn, he is of no interest to poachers," said Elodie Sampere, marketing manager of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Northern rhinos are easy targets for hunters and poachers because they are less aggressive and occur in herds.
Zoo authorities are looking into developing reproductive techniques where preserved genetic material will be used to create embryos. These will be implanted to six southern white rhinos that will act as surrogates with hopes that they are genetically similar enough to bear baby rhinos.
A crowd-funding initiative was established to raise $750,000 to support the rhino in-vitro fertilization project.
"As humans, we have a duty to try because we are the ones who brought these animals to the point of extinction in the first place," Richard Vigne, who runs the Ol Pejeta wildlife residency, said.