(PALLAS’ CATS) OHIO — Science has done it again! Three Pallas’ Cat kittens were born through artificial insemination (AI) at the Cincinnati Zoo in June, marking the first ever AI pregnancy and birth for the species. The Central Asia-native Pallas’ Cat population has plummeted over the years because of poaching, habitat loss, and rodent control programs. But with the help of some dedicated scientists that will hopefully change soon. There are now about 50 Pallas’ cats throughout North American zoos, and efforts to rehabilitate the species will continue. Read on for more details regarding the insemination process. — Global Animal
Three healthy Pallas’ Cat kittens (two males and one female) were born on June 8th, 2011 at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden following a laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination (AI) procedure conducted by scientists from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW). This pregnancy and birth are the first ever in Pallas’ Cats from artificial insemination.
The AI procedure was performed using laparoscopy or minimally invasive surgery combined with a new oviductal insemination technique for cats that was developed at CREW. The Zoo’s female Pallas’ Cat, Sophia, was treated with two hormones to stimulate ovarian follicle growth and ovulation and then was inseminated in both oviducts with semen collected from the Zoo’s male Pallas’ Cat, Buster. Three healthy kittens were born following a 69 day gestation. The kittens, now 9 weeks of age, are being raised by their mother in an off-exhibit enclosure.
Pallas’ cats (Otocolobus manul) are native to Central Asia and are considered near-threatened in the wild due to poaching, habitat loss and rodent control programs. In North American zoos, Pallas’ cats are managed in a captive breeding program under the auspices of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). Currently, there are ~50 Pallas’ cats housed in 19 North American zoos. CREW scientists have worked with Pallas’ cats for the past 15 years, including collaborative research studies with wild Pallas’ cats in Mongolia that involved the collection, cryopreservation and importation of semen from ten wild males. The recent success of oviductal AI in Pallas’ cats may facilitate the use of this frozen Mongolian semen to introduce new bloodlines into zoos without requiring the removal of additional cats from the wild. The new oviductal AI method has been used by CREW within the past year to produce pregnancies in ocelots and sand cats in addition to Pallas’ cats.