Advances in Assisted Reproduction for Population Management and Conservation of Small-Sized Felids
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2015
William F. Swanson1, DVM, PhD; Helen L. Bateman1, MS; Lindsey M. Vansandt1, DVM, PhD; Ken R. Kaemmerer2, MA; Jessica Kinzer3; Stacey Konwiser4, MS; Ashleigh Lutz-Nelson5, MS; Barbara Palmer6; Jason R. Herrick7, PhD
1Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, OH, USA; 2Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 3Riverbanks Zoo and Garden, Columbia, SC, USA; 4Palm Beach Zoo, Palm Beach, FL, USA; 5Busch Gardens, Tampa, FL, USA; 6Denver Zoo, Denver, CO, USA; 7National Foundation for Fertility Research, Lone Tree, CO, USA


The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) maintains 18 felid species within North American zoological parks; of these, only three large cat species (lion, Panthera leo; tiger, Panthera tigris; jaguar, Panthera onca) are considered sustainable at 90% genetic diversity for the next 100 yr. The remaining cat populations, including all ten small-sized felid species, are projected to decline over time without improved breeding success and founder representation. For five priority small cat species (ocelot, Leopardus pardalis; fishing cat, Prionailurus viverrinus; sand cat, Felis margarita; black-footed cat, Felis nigripes; Pallas’cat, Otocolobus manul), recent advances in assisted reproductive technologies are providing Species Survival Plan (SSP) coordinators with new tools to improve genetic and demographic sustainability. Over the past 5 yr, reproductive research studies have led to substantial improvements in semen cryopreservation, ovarian synchronization, and artificial insemination methods in felids.1-6 In partnership with the respective SSP coordinators and in collaboration with SSP participant zoos, reproductive scientists have begun applying these new findings to achieve three primary objectives: 1) collection and cryopreservation of semen from the most genetically valuable males for each species, 2) propagation of recommended (but non-breeding) pairings using fixed-time laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination (LO-AI), and 3) production of offspring using LO-AI with frozen semen from new founders and underrepresented males. The ultimate goal of this ongoing project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), is to improve the sustainability and management of small felid species while demonstrating the applied value of assisted reproduction, as an adjunct to natural breeding, for endangered species conservation.


The authors thank IMLS for financial support of this Collection Stewardship grant.

Literature Cited

1.  Conforti VA, Bateman HL, Schook MM, Newsom J, Lyons LA, Grahn RA, Deddens JA, Swanson WF. Laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination improves pregnancy success in exogenous gonadotropin-treated domestic cats as a model for endangered felids. Biol Reprod. 2013;89:1–9.

2.  Lambo CA, Bateman HL, Swanson WF. Application of laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination for conservation management of Brazilian ocelots and Amur tigers. Reprod Fertil Dev. 2014;26:116.

3.  Stewart RA, Pelican KM, Brown JL, Wildt DE, Ottinger MA, Howard JG. Oral progestin induces rapid, reversible suppression of ovarian activity in the cat. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2010;166:409–416.

4.  Swanson WF. Laparoscopic oviductal embryo transfer and artificial insemination in felids: challenges, strategies and successes. Reprod Domest Anim. 2012;47(Suppl 6):136–140.

5.  Swanson WF, Newsom J, Lyons LA, Grahn RA, Bateman HL. Ovarian down-regulation with oral progesterone for fixed-time laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination with freshly-collected and frozen-thawed semen in domestic cats. Reprod Fertil Dev. 2014;26:143.

6.  Vick MM, Bateman HL, Lambo CA, Swanson WF. Improved cryopreservation of domestic cat sperm in a chemically defined medium. Theriogenology. 2012;78:2120–2128.


Speaker Information
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William F. Swanson, DVM, PhD
Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Cincinnati, OH, USA

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