BioRescue creates two new embryos in race against time to prevent the extinction of the northern white rhinoceros

Northern white rhino oocyte collection in January 2022 in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)
Northern white rhino oocyte collection in January 2022 in Kenya (photo: BioRescue/Jan Zwilling)

In two sets of procedures between October 2021 and February 2022 the BioRescue consortium created two new northern white embryos, bringing the total to 14. Oocytes (egg cells) were collected from northern white rhino Fatu in October and January at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya, and were matured and inseminated at Avantea laboratory, Italy. The developed embryos were cryopreserved in November 2021 and February 2022, and await transfer to southern white rhino female surrogates in the foreseeable future.

The procedures in October 2021 and January 2022 at Ol Pejeta mark the seventh and eighth successful oocyte collection conducted by the team of scientists and conservationists of Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Safari Park Dvůr Králové, Kenya Wildlife Service, Wildlife Research and Training Institute, Avantea, University of Padua and Ol Pejeta Conservancy. In the eight procedures since 2019, the team retrieved a total of 119 oocytes from Fatu and her mother Nájin – resulting in 14 embryos. Since these embryos exclusively originate from Fatu’s oocytes, BioRescue decided to cease egg harvesting on Najin following an ethical risk assessment in 2021. Following the recent oocyte collections, the eggs were airlifted to Avantea laboratory in Cremona, Italy, for maturation, fertilisation, embryo development and cryopreservation. Both recent embryos were produced using semen from northern white rhino bull Angalifu. In total, there are now 11 embryos from Fatu and northern white rhino bull Suni and 3 embryos from Fatu and Angalifu stored in liquid nitrogen for future embryo transfers.

A greater number of embryos increases the chances of eventually producing a northern white rhino calf. The consortium aims to repeat oocyte collection from Fatu and embryo development on a regular basis, as long as it is feasible and responsible considering Fatu’s welfare and the chances of success. This will be determined by regular ethical risk assessments that are conducted before every BioRescue procedure under the guidance of the Ethics Laboratory for Veterinary Medicine, Conservation and Animal Welfare at Padua University.

Media Package

A collection of photographs can be accessed through the following link:

The photographs shall only be used in direct connection with the story depicted in this press release and credit must be “BioRescue /Jan Zwilling”.


Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW)

Thomas Hildebrandt
BioRescue project head and head of Department of Reproduction Management
Phone: +49305168440

Steven Seet
Head of Science Communication
Phone: +491778572673

Jan Zwilling
Science Communication
Phone: +49305168121


Cesare Galli
Phone: +390 / 372437242

Safari Park Dvůr Králové

Jan Stejskal
Director of Communication and International Projects
Phone: +420608009072

Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Roxanne Mungai
Deputy Fundraising & Communications Manager
Phone: + 254(0)706475737

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)

Brig. (Rtd) J.M. Waweru
Director General
Tel: +254 (20) 2379407

Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI)

David Ndeereh
Ag. Deputy Director, Research
Phone: +254 722 556 380

University of Padua

Barbara de Mori
Director of the Ethics Laboratory for Veterinary Medicine, Conservation and Animal Welfare, Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science
Phone: +39-3403747666

Go back