Thursday, 13 Nov, 2008 Science

Successful Birth of Live Rhinoceros from Frozen-Thawed Sperm


Today there are about 20,000 rhinoceros, which continue to disappear. One of the species is already extinct and other features only four animals. The breeding of rhinoceros becomes very difficult as more of them age and become ill.

Scientists from Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, Zoo Budapest and the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, claim to be successful in giving life to a rhinoceros through artificial insemination with frozen-thawed sperm, which was gathered from a 35-36 year-old Southern white rhinoceros.

The collected semen was frozen for a period of 2 to 3 years and afterwards it was thawed. Researchers managed to artificially inseminate a 30 year old female rhinoceros, which later gave birth to a strong and healthy offspring.

During the conception, the female rhinoceros lived at the Budapest Zoo in Hungary, while the male donor was housed in Colchester Zoo, UK.

It is worth mentioning that for the first time the artificial insemination was performed in 2007, but back then scientists used fresh semen from a male that was housed in the same zoo. In the recent study scientists had to prove that frozen semen could be thawed and then used for insemination of an animal from a distant location. With their successful experiment, scientists managed to make a first great step towards the preservation of wild and captive animals. They showed that semen can be gathered and preserved in order to keep a genome resource bank and significantly increase reproduction in such megaherbivores as rhinoceros.

The article on the study and its results, which will be published in "Theriogenology, An International Journal of Animal Reproduction," was written by Dr. Robert Hermes, Med. Vet., and his team. It says that the accomplishment is part of a short list of fewer than 30 wildlife animals, the majority of which are strongly related to domestic species, where artificial insemination proved to be successful in producing a live offspring. The article says: "The use of frozen-thawed semen holds great potential as a means to overcome the crisis most captive and wild rhinoceros populations are facing in various ways."

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