The San Diego Zoo Tuesday announced the confirmed pregnancy, via artificial insemination, of one of its six southern white rhinos.
The mother-to-be, 10-year-old Amani, is the zoo’s second southern white rhino to become pregnant this year. The pregnancies of Amani and Victoria will assist ongoing research to genetically recover the southern white rhino’s closest genetic relative, the northern white rhino, from the brink of extinction, zoo officials said.
Zoo researchers hope to use stem cells and preserved cells from a dozen northern white rhinos to birth a rhino calf in the next 10 to 15 years, using southern white rhinos as surrogates. If the plan proves successful, researchers could attempt similar assisted reproduction techniques with the critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos. Only two northern white rhinos, both female, remain on Earth.
“Many months of intensive animal training, reproductive research and veterinary care resulted in these two ongoing pregnancies from artificial insemination,” said Dr. Barbara Durrant, Zoo Global’s endowed director of reproductive sciences. “We are following Victoria and Amani closely, continuing to gather critical information about early fetal development and the endocrinology of rhino pregnancy. The team is anxiously awaiting the arrival of our very special babies!”
The two pregnancies are the result of artificial insemination using sperm from a male southern white rhino. Victoria’s May pregnancy was the first successful artificial insemination in the zoo’s 102-year history. Rhino gestation lasts around 16 to 18 months, so researchers expect the two calves to be born in mid to late 2019.