Nabire was a 31-year-old Northern White Rhino from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. She suffered from uterine cysts, which made it impossible for her to breed naturally, and ultimately, one of those cysts brought her demise. She was also one of the last 5 white rhinos on the Earth.
The white rhinoceros or square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest extant species of rhinoceros. The white rhinoceros consists of two subspecies: the southern white rhinoceros, with an estimated 20,405 wild-living animals in 2013, and the much rarer northern white rhinoceros. The northern subspecies has only four existing individuals now, three females and one male, all in captivity.
To make things even worse, the females are not capable of natural reproduction. Because none of the females are capable of carrying babies, the species is basically on borrowed time. There is still hope though, through artificial insemination.
Prior to Nabire’s passing, researchers attempted to artificially inseminate her and then move the fertilized egg into a female southern white rhinoceros, the closest living relative. According to a statement from the Czech zoo, researchers did successfully harvest Nabire’s viable ovary; her offspring may be born even after her demise, so perhaps, there might still be hope for the northern white rhinos. It’s a long shot, but it’s a shot.
“It is our moral obligation to try to save them,” zoo director Přemysl Rabas said in a statement. “We are the only ones, perhaps with San Diego Zoo, who have enough of collected biological material to do so.”
It’s a valiant effort, one that could perhaps save an entire species. It’s definitely worth trying.