Tag Archives: rescue

Researchers are one step closer to saving the northern white rhino from complete extinction

Researchers in Europe have fertilized a rhino egg in vivo and then successfully transferred it back to the female. Their plan is to now perform the same procedure for the northern white rhino, to save the species from extinction.

Rhino.

Rhinos are under extreme pressure from habitat loss and poachers.
Image via Pixabay.

The procedure was performed by an international team of European researchers at the Chorzow zoo in Poland and involved a southern white rhino female. The work came as part of the BioRescue Project, an international team of scientists and conservationists trying to use IVF to save the almost-extinct northern white rhino.

Last of their kind

“This is the first positive proof that the entire procedure we’ve developed in theory can be successful,” said Thomas Hildebrandt (link in German) of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, who participated in the project.

There are only two northern white rhinos left in the world — and they’re both females. The last male (whose name was Sudan) died in March 2018 shortly after starting a Tinder account. However, researchers had preserved frozen samples from several males beforehand, as a kind of insurance policy that the species won’t be completely wiped out. Due to a lack of northern white rhinos, they’re testing the IVF transfer on southern white rhinos, a closely related sub-species whose numbers have stabilized in the wild. They now report that the transfer was successful.

As such, the BioRescue team was applied for permission from the Kenyan government to harvest eggs from the last two surviving northern rhino females — a mother and daughter called Najin and Fatu — and are currently awaiting a reply. Kenya’s ambassador in Germany, Joseph Magutt, said his country supports the effort but didn’t say how long it would take for the process to move forward.

The IVF technique is required in this case because the two females are unable to bear offspring themselves; once their embryos are fertilized in the lab, they will be implanted in a southern white rhino surrogate mother.

However, not all is rosy. Hildebrandt says that ultrasound tests show the embryo transferred at Chorzow zoo has grown, but that it’s smaller than expected. As of yet, it’s also unsure whether the embryo will implant in the female’s uterine lining, resulting in a pregnancy. In the meantime, the BioRescue team is working on ways to turn preserved skin cells (from deceased rhinos) into eggs or sperm.

Should it be successful, the technique would offer a safety net for other species on the brink of collapse — and there are many. A recent United Nations report warned that a million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades, largely because of human activity.

Foldable drone.

Search and rescue operations might soon call on foldable drones to find victims

A new shape-shifting drone promises to offer rescue teams robotic help even in those hard-to-reach areas.

Foldable drone.

The drone in it’s T-shape configuration (more on that later).
Image credits UZH.

Teams digging through collapsed or damaged buildings are often the only chance of salvation for those trapped after fires, earthquakes, or similar events. It’s obviously dangerous and laborious work. Not only are such structures very unstable, but they’re usually also very hard to navigate (on account of all the fallen rubble).

Needless to say, having drones scour collapsed buildings ahead of human teams would be the safest course of action. However, drones would often have to enter such sites through narrow points — a crack in a wall, a partially open window, through bars — something the typical size of a drone does not allow. A team of researchers from the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich and the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic School (EPFL) plans to address this issue.

The little drone that folded

“Our solution is quite simple from a mechanical point of view, but it is very versatile and very autonomous, with onboard perception and control systems,” explains Davide Falanga, researcher at the University of Zurich and the paper’s first author.

The drone’s most obvious advantage over counterparts is its ability to morph in shape to tackle cramped environments. and guarantee a stable flight at all times. The team says they’ve drawn inspiration from birds that fold their wings mid-air to navigate narrow passages. In a very similar fashion, the drone can squeeze itself to pass through gaps and then go back to its previous shape while flying. The drone can also transport objects, including during this morphing process.

Both teams collaborated closely to design the drone — a quadrotor with four propellers that rotate independently, each mounted on mobile arms outfitted with servo-motors that can fold around the frame. It also sports a video camera. What really keeps the drone aloft during these foldings is a control system designed and programmed by the team. It keeps tabs on each propeller’s position in real time, adjusting their thrust as the drone weaves and bobs through the air.

The drone’s standard configuration is the traditional quadcopter X-shape (like these drones here), with the four arms stretched out and the propellers at the widest possible distance from each other. When faced with a narrow passage, the drone can morph into an H-shape, with all arms lined up along one axis. It can also take on an O-shape (with all arms folded as close as possible to the body) or a T-shape, which can be used to bring the onboard camera as close as possible to objects that the drone needs to inspect.

“The morphing drone can adopt different configurations according to what is needed in the field,” adds Stefano Mintchev, co-author and researcher at EPFL.

The researchers plan to further improve the structure of their drone so that it can fold in all three dimensions. They also want to develop software that will make the drone truly autonomous, so it can find its own way through rubble and collapsed buildings in real-life scenarios. “The final goal is to give the drone a high-level instruction such as ‘enter that building, inspect every room and come back’ and let it figure out by itself how to do it,” says Falanga.

The paper “The Foldable Drone: A Morphing Quadrotor that can Squeeze and Fly” has been published in the journal IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters.

3 legged serval rescued nearby Arizona desert

At a first glance, this doesn’t seem like much. Just an animal rescued. But if you look more carefully, I think you’ll find it’s more than this; it’s a symbol. A symbol of how people don’t care about animals, regardless of how rare they are and how well they can take care of themselves.

This three legged serval was most likely used for breeding hybrid species, Savannah cats that sell for thousands of dollars, and was dumped for being too difficult to handle, which is basically what you expect from a large feline. But the wound was really old, so it was probably dumped without one leg and left to fend for itself. It would have suffered a slow and painful death, just limping around if it hadn’t been for the Tucson Wildlife Center.

I really really recommend checking out bigcatrescue.org, lots and lots of amazing stories and a great job done by the people there. Hats of to you guys !