Successful Egg Cell Harvest From ‘Last Survivor’ Iman The Rhino

By AZIS KHAN
KOTA KINABALU: An oocyte (egg cell) was successfully harvested from Sabah’s last living female Sumatran rhinoceros, Iman, Monday morning in Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

The egg cell was then taken to the Reproductive Innovation Center for Wildlife and Livestock at Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture, Universiti Malaysia Sabah in Sandakan.

Augustine Tuuga, Director of Sabah Wildlife Department said the extraction was performed by Professor Thomas Hildebrandt and his team from Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, in collaboration with the local Borneo Rhino Alliance team.

Preparation and maturation of the oocyte is being handled by Professor Arief Boediono of the Bogor Agriculture University, Indonesia.

“This is great news,” said Tuuga in a statement. “It would have been even nicer with more oocytes, but this does allow us to continue with the programme to try to make in vitro embryos of this critically endangered species.

“Professor Arief will be using thawed frozen sperm from Tam, who died in May this year of renal failure, for the in vitro fertilization attempt. We remain ready to collaborate with Indonesia for further attempts.”

Professor Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Dean of the Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture added “The Reproductive Innovation Center is now open for use, and I am pleased that this in vitro attempt will be made here.”

“There are simply not enough wild Sumatran rhinos left alive to save the species.

“Advanced reproductive technology can ensure that the living genomes of those rhinos are kept alive long after their deaths.”

This attempt in Sabah is great but yet another wasted opportunity – if Indonesia had agreed to provide fresh semen from one of their three young males, the chance of success this time would have been greater.

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