South African scientists unveil first test-tube buffalo

After the success of this project, South African scientists will now focus on breeding more endangered species, like the almost extinct northern white rhino.

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

A Cape Buffalo rests with her newborn calf in South Africa.

South African scientists have produced the first test-tube buffalo brought into the world by In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), 40 years after the first human test-tube baby was born.

Its name is Pumelelo and it was born on June 28, but was only unveiled to the world this week at a game farm north of Johannesburg in South Africa's Limpopo province.

"This success is of major importance for the prospective breeding of endangered species, and that is the reason why we are undertaking this work," said Morne de la Rey, a veterinarian and the managing director of Embryo Plus, which specialises in bovine embryo transfers and semen collection, mostly for the cattle industry.

He could grow to 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) or more.

The technique could pave the way for future breeding of more endangered species such as the northern white rhino - only three of them are left on the planet.

Workers attempt to bring a tranquillised rhino to the ground before dehorning in an effort to deter the poaching of one of the world's endangered species, at a farm outside Klerksdorp, in the north west province, South Africa.

Cape buffalos are notoriously bad-tempered and dangerous animals and Vasti, the biological mother, was sedated when her oocytes, or egg cells, were extracted using a technique similar to that used on human donors.

Game farming is big business in South Africa, but those involved in the project said the main concern was conservation.

"The object is certainly not to reproduce buffalo of superior genetics ... the goal is the conservation of species," said Frans Stapelberg, the owner of the farm where Pumelelo was born.

The project will now focus on the three remaining northern white rhino which are being kept at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The San Diego Zoo is partnering with that effort.

There are around 18,000 to 20,000 southern white rhinos left, mostly in South Africa, but they are being relentlessly poached for their horns to feed illicit demand in Asian countries such as Vietnam, where they are a prized ingredient in traditional medicine.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are around 900,000 Cape buffalo, also called African buffalo, on the continent, but they are now mostly confined to protected areas.

TRTWorld and agencies