'The Zoo: San Diego' Gives Inside Look at How Embryo Surrogacy Could Save the Northern White Rhino (Exclusive)

Could the Southern White Rhino be the savior of their severely endangered relatives to the north, the Northern White Rhino? The San Diego Zoo and its partners abroad certainly think so, and are giving The Zoo: San Diego viewers a sneak peek at the species' possible future in Saturday's season finale of the hit Animal Planet series, previewed exclusively on PopCulture.com.

In a sneak peek of Saturday's finale, Jill Van Kempen, Senior Mammal Keeper at the zoo, introduces viewers to Southern White Rhino baby Edward, feeling spunky and curious just nine days after mom Victoria gave birth without a hitch.

"He weighed in at 148 pounds and he came out kicking," Van Kempen says. "He was very active, it was great. She was a very protective mama right from the start and didn't show any signs of anything going wrong medically, so we just let her be a mom. As you can see, mama and baby are doing great, she's being nice and calm, she's letting the baby come up to us. It's everything we want to see."

It's rhinos like Edward and Victoria that could be vital to the survival of the Northern White Rhino species, of which there are only two left in the world, Wildlife Conservation Specialist Rick Schwartz explains in a finale preview at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park's Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center.

At Nikita Kahn, the six Southern White Rhinos the zoo brought from a private reserve in South Africa will get to live a life without fear of poaching and possibly contribute to the restoration of a whole species of rhino through technology in the future that would allow scientists to use the frozen embryos from Northern White Rhinos to create an embryo that can be carried to term by surrogate Southern White Rhinos.

"Because the aggression from poachers is so strong to kill these animals and get the horn, they're still concerned for safety, really, for these animals," Schwartz explains. "We partnered with our friends there in South Africa and we're able to rescue these six ladies to bring 'em over here where they could be safe."

"These females are Southern White Rhinos, which there are several thousand left in the world, however, the work being done here is for the Northern White Rhino, which there's only two left in the entire world," he continues. "The activity of humans are taking these animals off the face of the planet. And we strongly believe that it's our responsibility that we have the ability to do it, we need to step in and intervene, and that's what we're doing."


Don't miss the finale of The Zoo: San Diego, airing Saturday, Sept. 28 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Animal Planet.

Photo credit: Animal Planet