The ART of bringing extinction to a freeze – History and future of species conservation, exemplified by rhinos

Thomas B. Hildebrandt, Robert Hermes, Frank Goeritz, Ruth Appeltant, Silvia Colleoni, Barbara de Mori, Sebastian Diecke, Micha Drukker, C. Galli, K. Hayashi, G. Lazzari, Pasqualino Loi, J. Payne, Marilyn Renfree, Steven Seet, Jan Stejskal, A. Swegen, Suzannah A. Williams, Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, Susanne Holtze

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The ongoing mass extinction of animal species at an unprecedented rate is largely caused by human activities. Progressive habitat destruction and fragmentation is resulting in accelerated loss of biodiversity on a global scale. Over decades, captive breeding programs of non-domestic species were characterized by efforts to optimize species-specific husbandry, to increase studbook-based animal exchange, and to improve enclosure designs. To counter the ongoing dramatic loss of biodiversity, new approaches are warranted. Recently, new ideas, particularly the application of assisted reproduction technologies (ART), have been incorporated into classical zoo breeding programs. These technologies include semen and oocyte collection, artificial insemination, and in-vitro embryo generation. More futuristic ideas of advanced ART (aART) implement recent advances in biotechnology and stem-cell related approaches such as cloning, inner cell mass transfer (ICM), and the stem-cell-associated techniques (SCAT) for the generation of gametes and ultimately embryos of highly endangered species, such as the northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) of which only two female individuals are left. Both, ART and aART greatly depend on and benefit from the rapidly evolving cryopreservation techniques and biobanking not only of genetic, but also of viable cellular materials suitable for the generation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). The availability of cryopreserved materials bridges gaps in time and space, thereby optimizing the available genetic variability and enhancing the chance to restore viable populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-88
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Small Animals
  • Food Animals
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Equine


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