Extinct Northern White Rhino Makes a Digital Comeback
Tue, April 20, 2021

Extinct Northern White Rhino Makes a Digital Comeback

 

From over 2,000 Northern white rhinos in 1960, its population kept decreasing until they became only three in 2018. During that same year, the last male northern white rhino was euthanized by a team of vets in Kenya due to age-related complications. Scientists have been trying to use his sperm to revive his species even after his death. The only hope now is that their breed can be revived after the fertilized eggs from the females, Fatu and Najin, are implanted in a southern white rhino to gestate.

 

Credits: Smithsonian Mag

 

But, scientists have found a way to digitally revive a northern white rhino through a digitally projected artwork called “The Substitute,” which is recently displayed as part of the exhibition “Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial” at the Cuba Design Museum. It was produced by British artist Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg. Ginsberg was known for using modern science to draw attention to questions raised by new scientific developments. She usually highlights various topics such as conservation, artificial intelligence, biodiversity, exobiology, and evolution. 

 

Credits: Smithsonian Mag

 

Ginsberg describes “The Substitute”  as “wildly successful” for communicating something both intellectually imperative but also triggering emotion, “which I think is what makes it resonate with anyone who comes in and watches it.” According to Smithsonian Mag, the official journal published by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.. the rhino’s image, its sounds, and its behavior are based on 23 hours of video footage showing the last herd of northern white rhinos. It included the last male northern white rhino, Sudan. 

 

Credits: Smithsonian Mag

 

In the artwork, the faux rhino is seen adapting to his environment. While his form and his sound become more lifelike, the fact remains that he’s artificial. It also shows an uneasy paradox. “Why are we fixated on spending resources and time and effort on de-extinction projects when... we couldn’t keep the natural creature alive in the first place. And why would we value that kind of technological copy, if you will, more than we did the real rhino?” Ginsberg said.  
 

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