The northern white rhino of Africa could come back from the absolute brink of extinction as a third round of 10 eggs were successfully extracted from the last two surviving members of the subspecies.
The eggs were taken from two females, Najin and Fatu, who are unable to carry a baby to term, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
“The ovum pick-up went smoothly and without any complications,” the team from Germany and the Czech Republic said in a statement.
They eggs were flown immediately to Italy to be artificially inseminated with frozen sperm collected from white rhino bulls, of which none remain on the planet.
The scientists hope to create viable embryos that could be carried to term by surrogate females.
The most likely candidate would be a southern white rhinoceros, thousands of which roam the plains of sub-Saharan Africa, but it would depend on the rapid perfection of in-vitro fertilization, as well as keeping Najin and Fatu alive.
The last male northern white died in 2018, in Sudan. One year later, those involved in the project successfully created two viable embryos before freezing them in liquid nitrogen.
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya was founded to try and save the subspecies from extinction, with the last surviving two males and two females flown in from a zoo in the Czech Republic in 2009.
If successful, it would certainly be the latest hour any species was saved from extinction.