Microbiology

Frozen Animal Sperm to Repopulate the Wild



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Putting human male sperm on ice is something that has been a part of reproductive science for a significant amount of time. Placing animal sperm on ice and then rejuvenating it has proven much more problematic. Recently however several animal species have successfully given birth after being inseminated with frozen sperm.

October 22nd, 2008 found the Budapest Zoo becoming the new home to a new baby white rhinoceros. The male baby rhino's mother, Lulu, was inseminated with bull sperm in June of 2007. Baby rhino was healthy and accepted by his mother. This is all good news for the scientific team behind the birth because, it's "an important success for species conservation and preservation of biodiversity", says Dr. Robert Hermes, one of the scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin Germany.

Cryopreserved semen frozen at -196 degrees Celsius for an amazing 3 years was the sperm that the scientists used to produce the baby white rhino. If this can be done again maybe scientists can re-introduce white rhinos into areas where they have become depleted.

Previously, pig breeders would have a mere 5 days from sperm extraction to insemination. Scientists in Norway have been searching for a way to preserve pig sperm for more than 5 days; this would allow greater flexibility when attempting to impregnate sows.

After 5 years of research, scientists have developed a method that "moulds the sperm cells into an alginate gel." according to Science Daily.com. The sperm cells can then be stored in the gel until it is ready to be used. There are more trials to come but it shouldn't be too long before pig breeders can take their time before insemination.

June 20 and 21 were big days for the Smithsonian's National Zoo. Each those days saw the birth of black-footed ferrets that were inseminated with frozen sperm. The sperm was nearly a decade old but there was little hope of success when the female ferret was inseminated because success had been extremely difficult, including these 2, there have been only 3 black-footed ferrets successfully born from frozen sperm.

This particular type of ferret is one of the most endangered animals in the world. So any success that any reproduction programs with black-footed ferrets can only prove to be a positive thing. Perhaps after a few more successes the ferrets can be used to repopulate areas of the wild where black-footed ferrets have become extinct.

All this, and many other, experiments with frozen animal sperm can only prove to be a boon to the world, when all of the kinks get worked out.

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