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Scientists harvest single egg cell from Iman – Malaysia's last Sumatran rhino

September 30, 2019

The Star online by Stephanie Lee, 30 September 2019

Prof Hildebrandt and his team from the Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin performing the delicate procedure to harvest egg cells from Iman, Malaysia's last surviving Sumatran Rhino

KOTA KINABALU: A single egg cell – that is all that scientists managed to harvest from Malaysia's last living female Sumatran rhino – Iman. The egg cell (oocyte) was harvested at the Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Lahad Datu on Monday (Sept 30).

Scientists hope to fertilise the oocyte using the in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) method with frozen sperm, which was extracted from Tam, the male rhino that died in May this year of renal failure.

The single oocyte has been sent to the Reproductive Innovation Centre for Wildlife and Livestock at the Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture in Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Sandakan.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Augustine Tuuga said this is great news and it would have been even better if they had managed to harvest more oocytes.

"But this will allow us to continue with the programme to try to create embryos of this critically-endangered species," he said.

"We remain ready to collaborate with Indonesia for further attempts," he added.

The extraction was performed by Prof 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 Prof Arief Boediono of the Bogor Agriculture University, Indonesia.

Professor Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Dean of the Faculty of Sustainable Agriculture from UMS, said the Reproductive Innovation Centre is now open for use and he is pleased that the IVF attempt will be made there.

"There are not enough wild Sumatran rhinos left alive to save the species," he said.

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


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