A southern white rhino has become pregnant through artificial insemination at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park — giving hope for efforts to save a subspecies of one of the world’s most recognizable animals, researchers announced Thursday.
Scientists will be watching closely to see if the rhino named Victoria can carry her calf to term over 16 to 18 months of gestation.
If she does, researchers hope someday she could serve as a surrogate mother and could give birth to the related northern white rhino, whose population is down to two females after decades of decimation by poachers. The mother and daughter northern white rhinos live in a Kenya wildlife preserve but are not believed to be capable of bearing calves.
News of Victoria’s pregnancy was confirmed two months after the death of the last northern white male rhino named Sudan, who was also at the Kenya preserve and was euthanized because of ailing health in old age.
Victoria is the first of six female southern white rhinos the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research is testing to determine if they are fit to be surrogate mothers before using the limited sperm and eggs of the northern white rhino that are in storage to impregnate them.