Back in the early 1990s, an eager young post-doctoral fellow was hired to study cat reproduction at the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. One of his first projects involved a small-sized, little-known Central Asian felid called the Pallas’ cat (Otocolobus manul).
At the time, there was a grand total of one male Pallas’ cat in all U.S. zoos – a wild-born Mongolian cat named Gek. The post-doc dutifully collected and evaluated Gek’s semen every two months for almost two years and, for the first time, documented the extreme reproductive seasonality typical of this species. Concurrently, he froze Gek’s semen for long-term storage.
Fast forward 22 years later. That post-doc, Dr. Bill Swanson, is now CREW’s Director of Animal Research, and in early 2015, found himself in desperate need of frozen Pallas’ cat semen. Fortuitously, he previously had acquired Gek’s samples from the National Zoo. Frozen semen from Gek and two other males was used for laparoscopic oviductal artificial insemination (LO-AI) of four Pallas’ cats at three U.S. zoos (Cincinnati, Columbus, Pueblo). Two of those cats appeared to conceive; however, only the Columbus Zoo female subsequently gave birth. Her single kitten was fully developed, but, unfortunately, stillborn.
Notably, the fatherof that kitten was … (drum roll, please) …Gek! The pregnancies and birth were the first ever with frozen semen in Pallas’ cats but also established a new longevity record for frozen semen fertility in any wildlife species. Additional LO-AIs using Gek’s frozen samples are planned for 2016 – hopefully followed by the birth of healthy kittens this time around. Long-live Gek!
(Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services)
3 thoughts on “Pushing the Envelope on Frozen Semen Fertility with Gek the Pallas’ Cat”
sooo…doesn’t he want to breed? We have ferel groups all over California … they silently hang out in drains. fields and tree areas … I volunteered to care for them…outside of hotels and malls are their favorite areas because the mice and rats are drawn to the area.. they don’t want to be touched and hide from everyone except us cat lovers.
waaaw….. science is driving us crazy,, give Grek his right of enjoying love from his females and produce youngs he knows are his!…
i have never seen one of this species.
Thanks a million Shasta for this information.
Bonnie Rochman writes about pregnancy, fertility, parenting — the ups and downs of being a kid and having one — for TIME.