A team of scientists, led by the University of Washinton's Dr Chuck Murray, has successfully crowdfunded a project to sequence the genome of the black rhinoceros – a species that's been poached to near extinction. The effort is an important step in the conservation of the species, of which there are barely more than five thousand remaining.
The black rhino is a critically endangered species. Three of the eight subspecies have already been hunted to extinction, and just 5,055 of the animals are left in the world today. We've seen numerous projects over the years that aim to help protect the species in one way or another, including using drones to keep an eye on animals living in conservation habitats and national parks. Just last week, we reported on a San Francisco-based startup that's working on a bioengineered rhino horn which it hopes will help ease the relentless hunting of the species.
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The crowdfunding campaign aims to attack the issue from a slightly different angle, by gaining a better understanding of the animal itself. The project, which was hosted on the scientific crowdfunding platform Experiment, aims to sequence the genome of one of the remaining black rhinos, named Ntombi. In doing so, the team believes that it will be able to gain key insights into the species, answering questions pertaining to evolution and susceptibility to disease.
Once the raw sequence has been obtained, it will then by aligned with that of the southern white rhino genome. The team will then produce a fully annotated, open access version of the black rhino genome, allowing biologists, conservationists, historians and anyone else who so desires, access to the data.
The crowdfunding effort recently concluded at a little over US$17,000, just tipping it over its target. For more on the important conservation effort, you can check out the video below.