South Africa unveils test-tube buffalo, plans IVF rhino

Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:28am EDT
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By Ziyanda Yono

MARBLE HALL, South Africa (Reuters) - Almost 40 years after the first human test-tube baby was born, South African scientists have produced something bulkier: the first Cape buffalo brought into the world by in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Pumelelo the buffalo bull calf was born on June 28 and was unveiled to the world this week at a game farm north of Johannesburg in South Africa's Limpopo province.

The technique holds hope for far bigger and more endangered species such as the northern white rhino - only three of them are left on the planet.

"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 specializes in bovine embryo transfers and semen collection, mostly for the cattle industry.

Proud parents are biological mother and egg donor "Vasti" and sperm donor "Goliat", which is Afrikaans for Goliath - in his bulky case, no misnomer. The baby bull has a surrogate mother which has taken to him.

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

Cape buffalos are notoriously bad-tempered and dangerous animals and Vasti 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.   Continued...

A Cape Buffalo rests with her newborn calf born at a zoo in Pretoria, South Africa, January 1, 2000. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya/File Photo