Can You Save a Species From Extinction?
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Can You Save a Species From Extinction?

By Ava Lennon

There are only two Northern White Rhinos alive on earth. Despite the odds, scientists are trying to bring the species back from the dead.

Najin and Fatu, both female, are the only two Northern White Rhinos on Earth. Driven to extinction by the over-poaching of rhino horns, they’ve both lived in a wildlife conservation habitat in Kenya since 2008. When the last male Northern White Rhino died in 2018, scientists began efforts to revive the species from its impending extinction. Using eggs extracted from Najin and Fatu and specimens collected from the male rhinos before they died, they hoped to impregnate the two remaining rhinos and increase the population from there. 

In 2019, the first viable fertilized egg was produced. But since then, no successful pregnancies have occurred. Scientists have now begun to focus on a very similar species: the Southern White Rhino, which escaped extinction in 1895 and shares an extremely similar genetic structure with the Northern White Rhino. They differ only slightly in their phenotypes (observable characteristics), like the shape of their head and teeth. Both lived in grasslands or tropical savannas, one in north-central Africa and one in southern Africa.

Starting in 2021, this new venture has been using the Southern White Rhinos as surrogates for their Northern counterpart. The only hope is that this plan works out soon—or we may never see the Northern White Rhino again.

De-extinction efforts haven’t only been limited to currently-existing species. Bioscientists are working to bring back the Woolly Mammoth, an enormous elephant-like mammal that has been extinct for nearly 4,000 years. To do this, they are extracting DNA from mammoth fossils and analyzing the DNA structure of the Asian elephant, a common ancestor who shares a similar genetic code.