News Release

Five new embryos and new surrogate mothers added to the Northern White Rhino BioRescue project

Business Announcement

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW)

Southern white rhino female for BioRescue breeding project

image: Southern white rhino female for BioRescue breeding project view more 

Credit: Leibniz-IZW/Juarez

Four years since the start of this ambitious project to save the Northern White Rhino from extinction, the BioRescue consortium has made significant progress towards its ultimate aim. Using advanced assisted reproduction technologies, 29 northern white rhino embryos have been created and cryopreserved, ready for a future transfer to a surrogate mother. Most recently, in May 2023, 18 eggs were collected from female Fatu. This resulted in five new embryos created, the highest number of embryos from any collection to date. The sperm for fertilisation came from two different bulls, thereby improving genetic diversity. The BioRescue research project is mainly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

During the last scientific field trip to Kenya in May 2023, the 13th egg collection from the Northern White Rhinoceros (NWR) was carried out by a team of scientists and conservationists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW), Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Safari Park Dvůr Králové, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The procedure with the female Fatu went smoothly without any complications and 18 eggs were harvested. They were matured and fertilised at the Avantea lab in Cremona, Italy, leading to 5 further embryos being produced, the highest number of embryos from any one egg collection so far. Previous procedures in November 2022 (11th collection) and February 2023 (12thcollection) yielded two and zero embryos, respectively. 


Furthermore, in May 2023 the BioRescue team made another promising step towards saving the most endangered mammal species on our planet. The consortium members successfully identified and selected two wild southern white rhino females (SWR) as potential surrogate mothers. Both females were examined and translocated into a safe enclosure. They will now be crucial in supporting the breeding efforts within the BioRescue project for the NWRs. 


The consortium members also checked the health status of the SWR teaser bull Ouwan and confirmed that he is still functionally sterilised. The teaser bull indicates by copulating with a female that a potential SWR surrogate mother is ready to receive an embryo. The bull has to be sterilised, otherwise it makes no sense to perform an embryo transfer as the female would become pregnant with the bull’s sperm.


The next steps of the BioRescue project will be to perform embryo transfers with SWR embryos to demonstrate that the chosen transfer protocol is suitable and works. Once a proven pregnancy is achieved the team will use the protocol for transferring cryopreserved NWR embryos to produce viable offspring as soon as possible. 


All steps of the BioRescue project are monitored and accompanied by an ethical evaluation procedure developed and implemented by the Ethics Laboratory for Veterinary Medicine, Conservation and Animal Welfare at Padua University in Italy. Apart from BMBF, other major donors to the NWR BioRescue project include foundation Nadace ČEZ and Richard McLellan.


Media pack

A collection of photos can be accessed via the following link:

Photos may only be used for the news section of media relations and in direct editorial connection with the content presented in this press release and must be credited with "Name/BioRescue".


Background information

Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW)

The Leibniz-IZW is an internationally renowned German research institute in the Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. and a member of the Leibniz Association. Our mission is to study evolutionary adaptations of wildlife to global change and to develop new concepts and measures for the conservation of biodiversity. To achieve this, our scientists use their broad interdisciplinary expertise in biology and veterinary medicine to conduct basic and applied research - from the molecular to the landscape level - in close dialogue with the public and stakeholders. In addition, we are committed to providing unique and high-quality services to the scientific community. 


Safari Park Dvůr Králové

Safari Park Dvůr Králové is a safari park in the Czech Republic. It is one of the best rhino breeders outside Africa and the only place where the Northern White Rhino has been bred in human care - the two remaining females, Najin and Fatu, were born here. The Dvůr Králové Safari Park is coordinating efforts to save the northern white rhinos. 


Kenya Wildlife Service

The Kenya Wildlife Service is the main government institution responsible for the conservation and management of wildlife in Kenya. It also enforces the relevant laws and regulations. 


Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to the largest population of the eastern black rhino and the only place in Kenya where chimpanzees can be seen. It is also home to the last two northern white rhinos in the world. Ol Pejeta's state-of-the-art wildlife security measures include a dedicated K-9 unit, motion-sensor cameras along the solar-powered electric fence and a special rhino protection unit with dog squadron. 



Avantea is a laboratory for advanced technologies in biotechnological research and animal reproduction based in Cremona, Italy. Avantea has more than twenty years of experience and know-how in the field of assisted reproduction of farm animals, developed through years of research in biomedicine and animal reproduction. 


University of Padua

The University of Padua in Italy is one of the oldest universities in the world and is celebrating its 800th anniversary. Its Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Sciences develops leading research and education in the field of wildlife conservation and protection, with a particular focus on ethical assessment and evaluation of research projects and educational programmes.


Wildlife Research and Training Institute

Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) is a Government established under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act No. 47 of 2013 to coordinate and undertake wildlife research and training in Kenya using innovative approaches to provide accurate and reliable data and information for policy formulation and decision making.



Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW)

Thomas Hildebrandt

Project Manager BioRescue and Head of the Reproduction Management Department 

Phone: +49305168440 


Frank Göritz

Senior veterinarian at Leibniz-IZW and research associate in the Department of Reproductive Management 

Phone: +49305168444 


Steven Seet

Head of Science Communication 

Phone: +491778572673 


Jan Zwilling

Science Communication 

Phone: +49305168121 




Cesare Galli


Phone: +39 / 0372437242 or +39 335 6240261 



University of Padua

Barbara de Mori 

Head of the Ethics Laboratory for Veterinary Medicine, Conservation and Animal Welfare, Department of Comparative Biomedicine and Food Science 

Phone: +39-3403747666 



Safari Park Dvůr Králové

Jan Stejskal 

Director of Communication and International Projects 

Phone: +420608009072 



Ol Pejeta Conservancy

Samuel Mutisya

Head of Conservation

Phone: +254 / 720 828 231 



Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)

Erustus Kanga

Ag. Director General

Phone: +254 (20) 2379407



Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI)

David Ndeereh

Deputy Director, Research

Phone: +254 722 556 380



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