Six new additions to the San Diego Zoo arrived last week in what conservationists hope will be a successful effort to save a nearly extinct species.
With only four northern white rhinos left on Earth, officials have a hatched a plan to use southern white rhinos--a less critically endangered species--as surrogates for northern white rhino embryos scientists hope to grow from cells stored at the renowned Southern California zoo.
Late Thursday, six female white rhinos touched down in a jet chartered from South Africa.
Researchers at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research are optimistic a northern white rhino calf could be born using cells stored at the so-called Frozen Zoo within 10 to 15 years.
Scientists hope to one day apply the technique to critically endangered Sumatran and Javan rhinos, as well.
In the meantime, officials must work to ensure the six prospective mama rhinos, which all originated from private South African reserves, acclimate to their new surroundings.
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome these southern white rhinos to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and our new Rhino Rescue Center,” Steve Metzler, the zoo's interim associate curator of mammals, said in a release.
“The animals did extremely well during the flight, eating normally and sleeping a good portion of the long trip. Our priority now is to ensure the rhinos are comfortable and acclimating to their new surroundings.”
Nola, one of the world's four remaining northern white rhinos, lives at the San Diego Zoo. Nola, a female, is 41-years-old. Most rhinos can live to around 50.
The other three remaining white rhinos, three females and a male, live in Kenya.