School of Anthropology & Conservation

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Dr Bob Smith quoted in TIME magazine on rhino conservation

5th July 2018

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Dr Bob Smith has been contacted by the Associated Press to offer commentary on a new paper published in Nature Communications. The paper examines new scientific methods that have been developed to prevent the extinction of northern white rhinos, of which only two are known to still be alive. Northern white rhinos were once abundant across Central and East Africa, but conflicts and poaching wiped them from their natural habitat. Researchers have succeeded in creating embryos using frozen northern white rhino sperm and eggs from a southern white rhino, a closely related sub-species.

But Dr Smith has issued caution: “There is still debate over whether the northern white rhino is a different species to the southern white rhino… the default is that it’s a sub-species. If they’re not different species, some have argued this is not such a disaster because there are thousands of southern white rhino.

“Assisted reproductive technologies are very expensive and their success is far from guaranteed. Meanwhile, we don't have enough funding to conserve the other four rhino species, all of which are more threatened with extinction than the white rhino.”

Dr Smith elaborated that funds for conservation were often better spent protecting animals in the wild. But he added, “Having said that, there are examples where bringing species into captivity has almost certainly saved them – including amphibian species that have been wiped out by disease in the wild.”

News outlets in Orlando, Baltimore, South Florida, Chicago, Palm Beach, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, New Zealand and China have all picked up the story, alongside TIME magazine, The Washington Post and the BBC.

Image c/o Sunday Alumba – AP Photo.


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Last Updated: 20/01/2017