IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


1st February, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: indianexpress.com

Context: The BioRescue project aims to rebuild the critically endangered northern white rhinoceros subspecies through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogacy.


  • The northern white rhinoceros is a subspecies of the white rhinoceros that is critically endangered. In 2018, the death of the last male northern white rhino made the extinction of the subspecies inevitable. However, a group of scientists from five continents launched an audacious and expensive project to rebuild the subspecies through in vitro fertilization (IVF).
  • In 2009, four northern white rhinos were brought from a zoo in the Czech Republic to a conservancy in Kenya in the hope that they might breed in their natural environment. The two males died since, and the two females turned out to be incapable of reproduction for pathological reasons. This meant surrogacy was the only option to produce a northern white calf through IVF.

IUCN Status of Rhino

Black Rhinoceros: Critically Endangered (CR) - Despite slow population increases due to conservation efforts, poaching remains a major threat.

White Rhinoceros: Near Threatened (NT) - Two subspecies, Southern White and Northern White, have different statuses. Southern White is nearly threatened due to ongoing conservation success, while the Northern White is Critically Endangered (CR) with only two females remaining alive.

Greater One-Horned Rhinoceros: Vulnerable (VU) - While populations have increased in recent years, habitat loss and poaching remain concerns.

Sumatran Rhinoceros: Critically Endangered (CR) - The rarest rhino species, facing severe threats from habitat loss and poaching.

Javan Rhinoceros: Critically Endangered (CR) - The most critically endangered rhino species, with only about 70 individuals remaining due to habitat loss and poaching.

The BioRescue project

  • The BioRescue project is an international consortium of scientists that is working to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction.
  • The project was launched in 2015 and is funded by the German government and several other public and private donors.
  • The project's goal is to create a viable population of northern white rhinos through IVF and surrogacy.

The first rhino pregnancy achieved through IVF

  • In 2023, the BioRescue project announced the first-ever rhino pregnancy achieved by transferring a lab-made rhino embryo into a surrogate mother.
  • The pregnancy was achieved with a southern white rhino, a closely related subspecies of the northern white rhino.
  • The success of this pregnancy gives hope that the BioRescue project will be able to create a viable population of northern white rhinos.

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Q. Consider the following statements in the context of the Rhinoceroses:

1. They are herbivorous mammals that are native to Africa and Asia.

2. They are the second-largest land mammals after elephants.

3. White rhinoceros is the largest of the five species of rhinoceros.

4. Rhino skin is folded into plate-like sections, which help to protect the rhino from predators.

5. Their legs are short and powerful, allowing them to run surprisingly fast for their size.

6. They live in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, savannas, forests, and wetlands.

7. They are good swimmers.

How many of the above statements are correct?

A) Only four

B) Only five

C) Only six

D) All seven

Answer: D


All seven statements are correct. Here is an explanation for each statement:

1. Rhinos are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. They are also native to Africa and Asia, where all five species of rhinoceros can be found.

2. Elephants are the largest land mammals, and rhinos are the second-largest. The white rhinoceros is the largest species of rhinoceros, weighing in at up to 5,000 pounds.

3. The white rhinoceros is the biggest of the five rhino species, followed by the Indian rhinoceros, the black rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhinoceros, and the Javan rhinoceros.

4. Rhino skin is very thick, up to 2 inches thick in some places. It is folded into plate-like sections, which help to protect the rhino from predators and the harsh African sun. The thick skin also helps to insulate the rhino from extreme temperatures.

5. Despite their short legs, rhinos can run surprisingly fast, up to 30 miles per hour for short bursts. Their powerful legs allow them to run quickly and charge at predators.

6. Rhinos can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, savannas, forests, and wetlands. The type of habitat that a rhino lives in depends on the species. For example, black rhinos prefer dense forests, while white rhinos prefer open grasslands.

7. Rhinos are good swimmers and can stay underwater for up to five minutes. They use their powerful legs to paddle and their horns to steer. Swimming is an important way for rhinos to cool off, to escape predators, and to travel between different parts of their habitat.