|Conservation of endangered animals by using sperm
and embryo freezing
Maija Valtonen, University of Kuopio
There is an urgent need to protect and conserve endangered wildlife in
the world. The traditional means of doing this is to regulate human use
of specific species or nature areas by legislation. However, the changes
in environment and other circumstances have driven man into a situation
where it is impossible to stop destruction of many species without special
conservation programs. These programs have traditionally included breeding
animals in captive surroundings, which again often is very difficult and
limits the number of individuals thus restricting the genetic basis. A
decrease in the genetic variation in a population results finally in failures
in reproduction and total vitality.
The modern techniques make it possible to preserve large gene materials
by freezing sperm or gametes. Sperm freezing, artificial insemination and
embryo transfer are routine methods in several domestic species and applications
of these techniques may also be used in wild species. However, reproduction
physiology is quite species-specific and before any technique can successfully
be applied, the main reproduction features like seasonality, estrous cycling,
timing of ovulation and fertilization, sperm production and quality etc.
must be examined in target species or at least in a nearby relative species.
Thus it gives remarkable benefit to research if a domestic and easily available
species for experiments exists. By using this type of model species, progress
in research is fast and effective and saves the rare endangered individuals
from experimental work until the last steps.
The project "Ex-situ conservation of endangered species by cryopreservation
of gametes and embryos" will be concentrating in three endangered mammalian
species which all have a close relative species available in farm conditions.
The farmed blue fox will act as a model for the Arctic fox, the semidomesticated
reindeer for the European forest reindeer as well as the polecat for the
Ex-situ conservation of endangered species by cryopreservation of gametes
Professor Maija Valtonen
Department of applied zoology and veterinary science,
University of Kuopio
FIN-70211 Kuopio, Finland
tel: .+358-17-163370, fax.+358.17-163148
e-mail.: maija.valtonen(at) uku.fi