Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
The white rhino is among the world's rarest species and now, based on a new study, the population may be ready to split. Based on genetic and physical research, scientists believe that the northern and southern white rhino, typically considered related subspecies, may in fact be entirely unique species.
If accepted, the taxonomic split would have particularly severe implications for the northern white rhino, which has a population of eight individuals in captivity and is thought to be extinct in the wild.Of the eight known northern white rhino, only four are capable of breeding. Once housed in Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic, the rhinos were transferred to a conservancy in Kenya where they are guarded around the clock.
Splitting the species, the authors point out, does not mean certain doom for the northern white rhino.
"The admirable success of the conservation histories of the Southern white rhino and the Indian rhino," they write in their report, "both of which were brought back from the brink of extinction by successful conservation efforts, does, however, hold out hope that the northern white may yet be saved for posterity."
Conservationists hope that the conservancy will encourage the four rhinos to breed.
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