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Saturday, June 1, 2013

From the News: "German zoo announces first-ever ‘test tube kittens’"

German Zoo Announces First Test Tube Kittens

Thought I'd share a quick news item; to summarize the attached link, Germany's Allwetter Zoo has announced the birth to two Asian golden cat, Catopuma/Pardofelis temminckii, kittens through artificial insemination.  I've never seen one of these gorgeous cats myself - ZIMS doesn't list any in North American zoo collections - but it's a great triumph for the zoo.  

When zoo folks first began talking about AI, I was kind of leary about it initially.  I felt, at the time, that the best way to reproduce animals in a zoo setting was to do it naturally as possible (boy meets girl, as it were).  The more I've looked into the practice, however, the better and better an idea it seems in many circumstances.  It's a lot easier, cheaper, and less stressful to ship a vial of sperm than it is to send a whole animal across the country or world.  There's also the possible advantage of collecting sperm from wild animals for use in captive breeding programs - add new genes to the zoo population without pulling them out of the wild one.

I do worry slightly about the social implications of AI - for species that rely on learning more than instinct, could it lead to "socially uneducated" animals, unpracticed on how to interact with one another?  It reminds of the hand-rearing fiasco of a few decades ago - baby animals were pulled from their mothers to be hand-reared, the end result being that they didn't know how to raise their own babies later on (which meant that THOSE babies then had to be hand-reared).

Anyway, that's just a rambling thought.  Congrats to Allwetter Zoo and best of luck with their cats!

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