Rhinos saved from the brink of extinction

Heavyweight: A fully grown white rhino weighs up to 2,400kg.

Should we bring back dead animals? The endangered white rhino could soon be saved from extinction after scientists create embryos in a lab. But some say we shouldn’t get in the way of nature.

What’s happening

Najin and Fatu are unique. This mother and daughter are the last two northern white rhinos left on the planet. After they are gone, their species will be extinct.

But now, scientists in Germany have made a breakthrough that could bring the white rhinos back for good.

Find out more

Northern white rhinos are the second-largest land mammals on Earth. They have skin 30 times thicker than a human being. They weigh up to 2,400kg.

But almost all of them have died. Many have been hunted by poachers.

As Najin and Fatu are both females, they cannot reproduce naturally.

Now experts have used Fatu’s cells and some from the last male rhino to make embryos. They hope to insert them into another female in March. If the plan succeeds, the embryos will grow into a calf.

This is not the first time science has saved animals from extinction. Last year, one team made a clone of an endangered wild horse.

Some people think we should use the same science to bring long-dead species back to life.

Should we bring back dead animals?

Some say…

Yes! It is our duty to bring back animals that have died because of us. White rhinos are nearly all gone because of poaching. We need to fix our mistakes. And why stop there? We could use science to bring back ancient animals like the woolly mammoth or T rex. It would teach us all about what Earth was like before humans existed.

Others think…

No. It is one thing to use science to stop a species from going extinct. It would be different to bring back animals that have been dead for thousands of years. Ancient animals like the mammoth would probably not survive in the wild. They would just become zoo animals for our entertainment. It is cruel and pointless.

You Decide

  1. If you could bring any animal back to life, what would it be?

Activities

  1. In Jurassic Park, scientists find a way to use dinosaur remains to recreate living dinosaurs. Write a story about somebody who brings a Dodo back to life.

Some People Say...

“The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Mahatma Gandhi, Indian lawyer and activist

What do you think?

Word Watch

Unique
Being the only one of its kind. Every snowflake is unique. Najin and Fatu are unique because there are no other rhinos like them.
Species
A group of similar organisms that are able to reproduce. Humans are a species, and so are dogs.
Extinct
When all the members of a species are dead. At the moment, white rhinos are “functionally extinct”, which means that some animals are still alive but cannot make any more young.
Mammals
A warm-blooded animal that feeds its young milk made by the mother.
Poachers
Hunting an animal illegally. Poachers hunt protected animals to make money. In some parts of Asia, powdered rhino horn is worth a lot of money.
Embryos
An animal becomes pregnant when an egg cell from the female meets a sperm cell from the male and they join together. The egg then divides to form a ball of cells called an embryo. The embryo slowly develops and eventually grows into a baby.
Insert
This process is called in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) and is common in animals and humans. What is unusual is that the male rhino died three years ago, so the cells had to be kept safe and frozen.
Calf
The name for a baby rhino.
Clone
A clone is an identical copy of a living thing. It is made using DNA, which means its genes are exactly the same as the original.
Endangered
An animal or plant is endangered when there are so few left alive on the planet that the entire species is in danger of vanishing forever – or becoming extinct.
Woolly mammoth
A huge elephant-like animal that lived on Earth 400,000 years ago.
T rex
Short for tyrannosaurus rex. This was a dinosaur that walked on two legs. It was viscious and ate smaller dinosaurs and animals.

Subjects

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