Behind the scenes at Taronga Western Plains Zoo our Reproductive Biologist, Dr Rebecca Hobbs, is busy collecting sperm samples from wild animals in order to cryopreserve them for use in the future. Recently the veterinary team helped Dr Hobbs to collect samples from a male Waterbuck at the Zoo. This is the third such collection from this animal and previously samples have been provided to another Zoo in New Zealand for use in artificial insemination. This process allows genetic material to be shared with other Zoos in the region without having to physically transport the animal between zoos.
This is a common practice in horse, cow and sheep breeding and is likely to become more common with zoo animals because we can store frozen samples for decades. We can preserve living cells from animals for generations to come and use these cells to help bolster wild animal populations. This is particularly valuable for species that are at risk of severe population declines as they face pressures of habitat loss, water availability and other human driven factors. Having the ability to use these samples will assist in creating genetic diversity in a group of animals which is important for continued population survival.
Our role is to work with the veterinarians to collect the samples, assess the quality of the sample and suitability for freezing. We then freeze it, catalogue and store the material in the Taronga Cryoreseve. Then we requested we organise the shipment to another Zoo.
From the Wildlife Reproductive Centre