Scientists believe a new breakthrough could provide a last-gasp reprieve for the almost-extinct Northern White Rhino.
It was thought the species’ fate was sealed last March, with the death of the last male rhino, Sudan.
He made headlines a few months before his death, when conservationists signed him up to Tinder in a bid to fund his mating with a southern white rhino.
Continuous poaching has decimated the species, making it the most endangered in the world.
The last surviving members of the species – mother and daughter Najin and Fatu – live in Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Najin, one of only two female northern white rhinos left in the world, 02-07-2018. Image: Sunday Alamba/AP/Press Association Images
Neither can bear offspring, leading many conservationists to warn their extinction was all but certain.
However, a new study published in the journal Nature yesterday, has handed new hope to the dying breed.
Researchers have created hybrid embryos containing frozen sperm from dead northern white rhino males and the eggs of southern white females.
The tombstone for Sudan, the world's last remaining male northern white rhino, in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, 01-04-2018. Image: Lyu Shuai/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
The southern white species is extremely similar, with a much healthier population count.
These ‘hybrid’ embryos can be frozen and implanted into a surrogate to produce hybrid offspring.
Incredible and thrilling news as scientists announce a huge breakthrough in the rescue and regeneration of the northern white rhino ... https://t.co/2dfn1DqkYy#helpingrhinos #RememberingSudan pic.twitter.com/fiyC5gJceh
— Helping Rhinos ðŸ¦ (@HelpingRhinos) July 4, 2018
The next step in the process will be to harvest eggs from Najin and Fatu, fertilize them with northern white rhino sperm and implant the resulting embryos in a southern white surrogate.
If successful, researchers hope to see the first baby northern white rhino born with three years.