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Successful Fixed Time Artificial Insemination in the Fishing Cat

CREW continues to make progress in improving the success of artificial insemination (AI) for propagating endangered
cats. In recent research, we incorporated treatment with oral progesterone (Regumate) into our AI protocol for domestic cats to down-regulate ovarian function prior to ovarian stimulation. This approach allows us to control ovarian activity more precisely and conduct AI procedures on a fixed time schedule.

Dr. William Swanson performs an AI procedure.

Dr. William Swanson performs an AI procedure.

Our first attempt using this method in exotic felids involved our fishing cat named Ratana,who was incapable of breeding naturally after losing a front leg due to injury. Ratana was fed a small amount of oral progesterone daily for one month to suppress her ovarian activity and then treated with gonadotropins to induce follicular growth and ovulation. Laparoscopic AI of both oviducts with freshly collected sperm from our resident male, named Gorton, resulted in conception and the birth of a male fishing cat kitten after a 69 day gestation.

Ratana and her kitten in her nest box

Ratana and her kitten in her nest box

This kitten was the first non-domestic cat born following the use of oral progesterone for fixed time AI, and represents the fifth cat species (fishing cat, ocelot, Pallas’ cat, tiger, domestic cat) that we have produced with oviductal AI. This new approach could greatly advance our capacity to use AI for the genetic management of endangered felid species.

Fishing cat (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

Fishing cat (Photo: Connie Lemperle)

April 11, 2014   1 Comment

We Love our Volunteers

Clara Madge Thane

Clara Madge Thane

This year marks the 40th anniversary of National Volunteer Week and is also the 40th year that two dedicated ladies by the names of Madge Van Buskirk and Clara Dantic have volunteered at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.  Volunteers are an essential part of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden team and these two ladies demonstrate the enduring importance of recognizing our volunteers for their vital contributions.

Madge with gorilla baby 70's

Madge with gorilla baby 70′s

Madge and Clara were fundamental in establishing the Zoo Volunteer Observer (ZVO’s) program that is still in existence at the Zoo today.  They coordinate a team of 50 individuals to conduct birth and behavioral watches as needed for animals in our collection. They have been busy lately scheduling ZVO’s for the giraffe birth watch and polar bear reproductive behavior watch.  The inception of this program began in 1974 to help ensure the safety of gorilla moms and babies.  The fruits of their labor can be seen today in the many offspring that have been successfully born at our Zoo- including a bonobo named ‘Clara’ who still resides at our Zoo and a gorilla named ‘Madge’ who now is living at the Dallas Zoo.

If you don’t find Madge and Clara at the Zoo, you will be sure to find at the ball park- they attend every home game for the Cincinnati Reds!

To all our Zoo volunteers, a big THANK YOU for everything you do to help make us successful!

April 10, 2014   2 Comments

Getting Ready For Summer With New Black Rhino Seyia!

At the end of last summer I wrote about training Klyde, our male black Rhino, to happily enter a crate, so he could travel to his new home and hopefully produce a bouncing baby rhino calf.

But when Klyde left he also left us with an empty exhibit and a hole in our heart.  He would come down to our encounter area each and every day allowing visitors to have an up close experience, watching him do his training behaviors. All could appreciate how strong and intelligent he was, how all 3,450lbs of him moved effortlessly, and how truly magnificent he was.  He was after all the mascot of the zoo, the rhino in our logo, who could ever fill this void or even come close to replacing him?!

Seyia

Black rhino Seyia target training.

Enter Seyia!  This three year old adolescent and southern bell came to us from her birth zoo in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Leaving her mom and the only keepers she has ever known, this brave little lady arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo in late Aug of 2013.  In a few short weeks she went from being timid and little nervous, of all that was new, to her to relishing her keepers and exhibit.  When she found the mud wallow for the first time you could physically see the joy and excitement on her face.

Seyia enjoying the mud

Seyia enjoying the mud

Adjustment period flew by for her and quickly she was ready to learn more than just her exhibit and keepers.  She was ready to start training!  Marjorie, her main keeper, had a list for us to begin training from.  The first was for Seyia to lean her body against the poles of her enclosure, so she could be bathed, skin checked and oiled, and just for an overall good evaluation of her health.  We couldn’t believe how quickly she caught on to asking her to move over.  Then we added asking her to place her front foot on a block so we could begin doing foot care, she figured this out rapidly too!  The first time the “light bulb” went on, she lifted her foot so high we were laughing about her overzealous nature to please. The next hurdle was teaching her to lie down. Imagine asking a 2,400 lb animal to place herself in the most vulnerable position, in front of hundreds of visitors. She is now doing this reliably out on exhibit during her training sessions!

Smart Seyia has mastered the "lie down" behavior.

Smart Seyia has mastered the “lie down” behavior.

Smart is not all Seyia has going for her, she is also very sweet natured and craves attention from her keepers.  So much so she began calling to them, something black rhino’s are NOT known to do.  Marjorie and I decided it would be an incredible experience for patrons to be able to hear this animal actually make a sound.  So we began capturing the behavior and now she will “speak” on command.  She is still a little unsure how loud we want her be outside, but inside she is quite happy to be loud all day!  Her vocal call is such a different sound.  Some compare it to a whale, others to a bird, and some say it sounds like a child’s kazoo.  The best part is this spring and summer you will be able to hear her, see her, and watch her train with Marjorie in her exhibit!

April 7, 2014   2 Comments