Test Tube Rhinos

Test Tube Rhinos

GS Paper - 3 General Science

Why in the news?

  • Scientists have achieved a major breakthrough by successfully inducing the first-ever pregnancy in a rhino using a lab-made embryo.
    • The procedure involved transferring the artificial rhino embryo into a surrogate mother, marking a significant milestone in reproductive science.

In vitro fertilization of White rhinos

  • Scientists from the international group BioRescue have accomplished the first rhino pregnancy through in vitro fertilization (IVF) by placing a lab-created rhino embryo into a surrogate mother.

  • The achievement involved using embryos from southern white rhinos, and the scientists plan to duplicate this success with embryos from northern white rhinos.

  • The project, spearheaded by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), received funding from the German government and various public and private contributors.

What was the necessity of Surrogacy?

  • Surrogacy was necessary for northern white rhinos in Kenya in 2009 due to the inability of the two females, Najin and Fatu, to reproduce for pathological reasons.
  • The two males, Suni and Sudan, had died which made natural breeding impossible.
  • IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) was the only viable method for producing a northern white rhino calf.
    • The southern white rhino was chosen as the ideal surrogate mother for the northern white rhino embryo.
  • The surrogate had to be isolated and protected from bacterial infections during the surrogacy process.
  • To identify the fertile window for implanting the embryo, a sterilized and scrubbed bull, known as a "teaser," was used.
    • The teaser bull triggered the formation of hormones favorable for embryo implantation, facilitating the success of the surrogacy process.

Challenges of the Method

  • The embryos used for the white rhino project come from eggs of two females and sperm from deceased males. This might make it hard to create a healthy and diverse gene pool for the northern white rhino.

  • The process to make white rhino babies through surrogacy and IVF is very complicated. 
    • If certain steps, like finding the right time for implantation and preventing infections, aren't done well, it could affect the success of the process.
  • Female white rhinos have trouble getting pregnant that can make it challenging to get enough samples for the project.

  • The project is very costly. 

  • Some people think it might be better to use the resources for different species instead of just focusing on the northern white rhino project.

  • The project hasn't done enough to deal with problems in the natural habitat of white rhinos. 
    • This could be a problem in the future and might even lead to extinction.

White Rhino

Size Rank

Second largest land mammal


Northern and Southern white rhino (genetically different)

Location and Population

Native to Africa; only two individuals left worldwide


Gray color; two horns; square upper lip; southern slightly larger and hairier; semi-social and territorial; males more solitary; dung marking for territory; use mud for cooling and protection

Conservation Status (IUCN)

Northern White Rhino (Critically Endangered), Southern White Rhino (Near Threatened)

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