Zoo Paves Path On Polar Bear Reproduction

Posted June 4, 2012

Scientists Perform Artificial Insemination Of First Polar Bears in Zoos

CINCINNATI – Scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo have made a breakthrough in animal research by performing the first artificial insemination of polar bears in zoos. “There’s not a lot known about polar bear reproduction, so it’s exciting to be in the forefront of this,” said Dr. Erin Curry, post-doctoral fellow at Cincinnati Zoo.

Researchers at the zoo’s crew center are paving the path in the reproduction of polar bears. In 2008, the team set out to monitor reproductive hormones in the bears.

“Over the course of a couple of years, we realized the reproductive rate in polar bears is really low, and it’s a concern for us,” said Dr. Terri Roth, director of Crew at Cincinnati Zoo.

Scientists said the Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, N.Y., volunteered their bears for the first ever artificial insemination.

On March 1, a team of Cincinnati scientists traveled to Rochester to perform the procedure.

“If she doesn’t have cubs, she doesn’t have cubs. But we hope she does,” Curry said. “The next step is to hopefully develop a pregnancy test for polar bears, which is what I’m working on right now.”

Scientists didn’t use the polar bears in Cincinnati because they’re already mating naturally. Scientists said the step is just the beginning of groundbreaking research in polar bear reproduction.

“(It’s) a big, big challenge. And sometimes, at Crew, we take on big challenges. They can prove interesting. This one seemed to work out really well, considering all the unknowns,” Roth said.

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