CBS NEWS, February 27, 2015.
Scientists at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park are looking at new ways to breathe life into critically endangered animals. They’re collecting samples from thousands of creatures, including rhinos, teetering on the brink of extinction, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.
Meet Chutti, a scampering baby rhino who was born on Thanksgiving. His name means “holiday” and he’s one of 68 greater one-horned rhinos bred at Safari Park, increasing the numbers of this endangered species to around 3,000 worldwide.
But rhino keeper Jane Kennedy keeps close watch over one in particular, a northern white rhinoceros named Nola. Nola is just one of five northern white rhinos left in the world.”She’s almost 41, so essentially think of her like a mid-80-year-old woman. She’s at the end of her life,” Kennedy said.
Rhinos are being driven to extinction in large part because of poaching. In 2014 in South Africa alone, 1,215 were killed for their horns. The horns are prized in some cultures, mistakenly believed to be aphrodisiacs and miracle cures.
“The horn is made out of keratin, the same thing as your fingernail,” Kennedy said. “If rhino horn cured cancer, then all you’d have to do is chew on your fingernails and there would be no more cancer in the world.”
The northern white rhino’s best chance for avoiding extinction might be inside a vat of liquid nitrogen at Safari Park’s “frozen zoo.” It’s the world’s largest genetic bank with samples from some 10,000 animals, including 12 northern whites.
Barbara Durrant, director of reproductive physiology at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, said it’s “certainly our hope” that the northern white rhino can be in the wild again.”We think it’s a possibility, yes,” Durrant said.