Daily Current Affairs for 20th January 2020

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Lone rare migratory eagle sighted in Andra Pradesh

GS Paper III

Topic: Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management.

Prelims:  steppe eagle

What’s the News?

A lone steppe eagle (Aquila nipalensis) has been sighted by a group of birdwatchers in a paddy field at Velagaleru near Vijayawada.

Steppe eagle:

  • The steppe eagle breeds from Romania east through the south Russian and Central Asian steppes to Mongolia.
  • Distribution: The European and Central Asian birds winter in Africa, and the eastern birds in India. It lays 1–3 eggs in a stick nest in a tree.
  • IUCN Status: Endangered
  • Habitat and ecology: It inhabits areas of steppe and semi-desert, and is recorded breeding up to 2,300 m in mountainous region. It feeds mainly on small mammals on its breeding grounds.

Threats to species:

  • Habitat loss: It is the greatest threat as their natural Steppe habitat is converted into agricultural lands. They are also very susceptible collisions with power lines and wind power development. Conversion of open habitats to aquaculture, pesticides and various effluents are a few threats to the species.
  • Steppe eagles are adversely affected by veterinary use of diclofenac and may fall prey to it. The research found the same signs of kidney failure as seen in the Gyps vulture killed due to diclofenac.
  • They found extensive visceral gout, lesions and uric acid deposits in the liver, kidney and spleen, as well as deposits of diclofenac residue in tissues.
  • Steppe eagles are opportunistic scavengers, which may expose them to the risk of diclofenac poisoning.

Significance of sighting:

  • The sighting of the endangered species highlights the need for exploration of the diversity of avian life in the State.
  • Steppe eagle is believed to be the second-largest migratory eagle species to India.
  • In winter, steppe eagle breeds in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia. The team of three bird watchers opined that the rare sighting of the species near Vijayawada city drives them to explore more species in the wetlands.


How IVF is reversing an imminent extinction

Paper: GS-III

Topic: Science and Technology-developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology.

For Prelims: Northern White Rhino and the IVF Project.

For Mains: Complications and Future Scope of the IVF Project.

Why in news?

  • Researchers had created another embryo the third of the nearly extinct northern white rhino, a remarkable success in an ongoing global mission to keep the species from going extinct.


  • The Northern White Rhino has beeneffectively extinct since 2018, when the last male, 45-year-old Sudan, died in Kenya.
  • Since the 1960s, the population has fallen from 2,000 individuals to just two remaining females today – mother Najin and daughter Fatu – who are currently protected at Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Mount Kenya.
  • But now scientists have successfully four eggs from Najin  and six from Fatu and fertilized them with sperm from a dead male, creating three viable embryos which they are hoping to implant into a surrogate later this year.

Northern White Rhino IVF Project:

  • All three embryos are now stored in liquid nitrogen while conservationists hunt for a suitable female to carry the precious calves. The team is hoping to implant the embryos into young, fertile Southern White Rhinos as it is too risky to carry out the procedure on the last remaining Northern Rhino.
  • The gestation period for rhinos is up to 18 months, meaning the first Northern White Rhinocalf could be born by 2022.
  • The Kenyan government is delighted that the Northern White Rhino IVF project, has been able to successfully produce three pure Northern White Rhinos embryos ready for implantation into the Southern White Rhino as surrogate in the coming months.
  • This is a big win for Kenya and the Northern White Rhino which is faced with imminent extinction where only two of them are left in the world. It is amazing to see that to reverse the tragic loss of this sub-species through science.
  • Northern White Rhinos are the most endangered mammal on Earth and, until now, all conservation efforts to save them have been thwarted by poaching, civil war and habitat loss.
  • The project to revive the Northern White population has been ongoing for several years but it was not until 2018 that scientists successfully achieved the first test-tube rhino embryofrom the frozen sperm of a Northern White male and the egg from a Southern White female. 

Complications of the Project:

  • There are several critical complications that would prevent this plan from working. First, the eggs would need to be extracted because the female rhinos are too old to reproduce naturally. Scientists would have to use another subspecies, the Southern white rhino, as a surrogate mother.
  • While cows are pregnant for nine months, the white rhino’s gestation period is longer approximately 18 months and they have such a delicate ability to conceive that it could be quite difficult to successfully impregnate a white rhino.
  • The task of taking eggs from a rhino had never been attempted before, and scientists were forced to invent a special six foot device to stimulate the female’s ovaries and collect the oocytes.
  • Researchers say the creation of three pure Northern embryos is a ‘hugely encouraging milestone’ for the species showing that the procedure is safe and reproducible, and can be performed on a regular basis before the animals become too old.

The Efforts of the Research Team:

  • Following fertilization the embryos were monitored in a special incubator dubbed ‘Geri’ supplied by pharmaceutical company Merck, who shared the first images of the cell growth.
  • The scientists are also trying to create rhino sperm and eggs directly from stem cells.
  • Because there are only two females left and all the available semen comes from only four males, IVF alone would not be able to create a self-sustaining population of Northern White Rhinos with the necessary genetic diversity.
  • Instead the team has found skin samples from ear notches taken from 12 rhinos before they died, from which they hope to create eggs and sperm.
  • The scientists say the work creates a blueprint for how to save endangered species, and even those that have already gone extinct. Once they have a viable population, the rhinos will be taken back to central Africa.

The Future of IVF and Endangered Species:

  • While IVF science offers a last-ditch option for saving the Northern white rhino, it’s probably a race against time, because IVF techniques for rhinos are still being developed and the last two Northern white rhinos are aging.
  • It seems clear that IVF is not an ideal solution for saving the white rhinos. Nevertheless, exploring the idea of using IVF as a tool to save the subspecies from extinction could help us figure out how to save other animals going extinct.
  • Technology is a key component of modern environmental conservation efforts. While fertility techniques continue to improve for humans and agriculture, this knowledge could also help us save animals like the white rhino.


  • The embryos have been preserved in liquid nitrogen, and will be transferred to a southern white surrogate. Neither of the two living northern white females can carry a pregnancy.
  • The ultimate goal is to create a herd of perhaps five northern white rhinos that could be returned to the wild. That, however, could take several decades, given that the task of collecting eggs from Najin and Fatu will likely become increasingly more complex and risky as they grow older.

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