Cloning Could Save Rare Rhino

Geneticists make last-gasp effort to pull white rhino back from the brink

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 18, 2008 3:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Faced with a wild population of northern white rhinos that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, scientists are turning to cloning in a last-ditch effort to save the species, the Independent reports. In a technique that could be used to pull other species back from the brink of extinction, scientists are mixing the rhino's cells with embryos of its less endangered cousin, the southern white.

The resulting offspring will have the DNA of both species, thereby saving genes that would otherwise be lost forever. "No one has done this before, but I'm confident that it can be done," said a stem-cell specialist. Conservationists hope the experimental technique will work, but say preventing habitat loss and poaching is still the best hope for endangered species.

The mutilated carcass of a young female northern white rhino killed by poachers lies in a national park in the Congo. Scientists believe only three or four wild northern white rhinos survive.
The mutilated carcass of a young female northern white rhino killed by poachers lies in a national park in the Congo. Scientists believe only three or four wild northern white rhinos survive.   (Getty Images)
A southern white rhino peers through bushes in South Africa.
A southern white rhino peers through bushes in South Africa.   ((c) Mister-E)
A file shot of a southern white rhino. Skin cells from the southern rhino will be used to try to save its endangered northern cousin.
A file shot of a southern white rhino. Skin cells from the southern rhino will be used to try to save its endangered northern cousin.   (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
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