Cremona (AP) - Researchers have taken an important step towards rescuing the Northern White Rhinoceros. As part of an artificial insemination, they created two embryos to help ensure the survival of the endangered subspecies.

The scientists of the Berlin Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), for example, had recently taken eggs from the last two surviving animals in Kenya and brought them to Italy. These had fertilized them with semen already deceased bulls. The successful fertilization announced on Wednesday the IZW and the laboratory Avantea in Cremona in Italy.

"The embryos are now stored in liquid nitrogen to be transferred to a surrogate mother in the future," it said. This is expected to be a female of the related subspecies of Southern White Rhinoceros. "The entire team has been developing and planning these procedures for years," said Thomas Hildebrandt from Leibniz-IZW.

However, following the successful production of the embryos, Richard Vigne from the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Reserve in Kenya warned that the last females live: "We have a very long way to go". The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Northern white rhinos once migrated in large numbers through East and Central Africa, but they were mostly eradicated by poaching. The last male of the subspecies, Sudan, died last year in Ol Pejeta. The news of the animal's death went around the world.

In addition to artificial insemination, researchers are also working on stem cell techniques to grow sperm and ova from preserved rhino body cells. Only then could one produce a genetic diversity that would be large enough to build a population.

IZW to the rhino project

Wildlife Reserve Ol Pejeta