Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tigers at Blank Park Zoo undergo rare insemination procedure

Two Siberian tigers at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines underwent a rare artificial insemination today that could help the endangered species survive in the wild.

Natural breeding has failed for nearly a decade. Now researchers must wait about 40 days to find out if Goldy is pregnant by Kavacha’s sperm.

If successful, it would mark the first time this particular insemination method — advanced by scientists from the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens — has helped Siberian tigers in captivity have cubs.

Two scientists from Cincinnati flew to Des Moines to help with the surgery. The project is a joint effort by the zoo, Iowa State University and the Cincinnati researchers.

Scientists said if the procedure is perfected with frozen semen, it could be used to improve the genetics of both captive and wild populations.

Siberian tigers, after decades of hunting, poaching and habitat destruction, are critically endangered. Fewer than 400 are estimated to live in the wild; 143 are in Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited institutions.

The number of recorded artificial insemination attempts with tigers is between 50 and 60, but only two or three have been successful.

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