New procedure, pioneered by CREW scientists, leads to successful artificial insemination of Brazilian Ocelot. The ocelot kitten, born January, 2011, is at the Beardsley Zoo in Connecticut and doing well!
One goal of Species Survival Plans (SSPs) is to develop holistic conservation programs for their species, incorporating captive breeding of a representative ‘insurance’ population, effective education and research efforts, and preservation of wild populations and their habitats. The Brazilian Ocelot Consortium (BOC), a partnership involving the Ocelot SSP, ten U.S. zoos (including the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden) and a Brazilian non-governmental conservation organization, the Associação Mata Ciliar, is a model example of this type of program. Funding from the BOC is being used in Brazil to provide professional training to Brazilian colleagues, improve captive breeding of Brazilian ocelots, educate the local populace about ocelots and restore degraded ocelot habitat adjacent to a large nature reserve. Since the start of reforestation efforts in 2003, nearly 50,000 native trees have been planted in the BOC habitat restoration areas.
As one other component of the BOC, a Brazilian ocelot population is being established in AZA-accredited institutions to be cooperatively managed in combination with captive ocelots maintained in Brazilian zoos. To help achieve this goal, CREW scientists have been developing innovative reproductive strategies involving artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, sperm and embryo cryopreservation and embryo transfer. In the past two years, we have successfully applied these reproductive tools to produce healthy offspring from founder animals housed in Brazilian zoos while improving the genetic management of Brazilian ocelots currently maintained in U.S. zoos. Read more: Birth of Sihil and Giant Leap for Ocelot Conservation.
Successful Artificial Insemination in Brazilian Ocelots
On Halloween night of 2008, a Brazilian ocelot named Kuma at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo quietly gave birth in her nest box to a single, healthy male kitten. Although this was the first kitten ever born to the four-year old female, Kuma has proven to be an excellent mother in raising her only offspring, despite her obvious physical handicap. Unfortunately, Kuma had been injured years earlier by another ocelot and lost her left rear leg as a result. As a consequence, she was incapable of breeding naturally with the male ocelot at the Beardsley Zoo. Because these two ocelots were both extremely valuable genetically to the small Brazilian ocelot population in North American zoos, the Ocelot Species Survival Plan (SSP) recommended that artificial insemination (AI) be attempted.
In August 2008, CREW’s Director of Animal Research, Dr. Bill Swanson, traveled to Bridgeport, CT and performed a laparoscopic AI procedure with Kuma, inseminating her with freshly-collected semen from the resident male. Although Kuma only ovulated a single egg, she conceived and, 79 days later, gave birth to her little Halloween surprise. This successful AI is the third ever in ocelots (all performed by Dr. Swanson) and the first in the past ten years, with the resulting birth helping the Ocelot SSP to meet its genetic management goals for conservation of this endangered species.