By John Boyd
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
5:37 PM CST, November 13, 2012
The Sedgwick County Zoo hopes to hear the pitter-patter of baby tiger paws. The zoo was chosen to participate in an artificial insemination program for Amur Tigers.
Tuesday, a team from the Cincinnati Zoo performed laproscopic artificial insemination on both of the Sedgwick County Zoo's female Amur Tigers. Zeya and Talali are both seven years old.
They were inseminated using semen from four-year-old Ivan, who also lives at the Sedgwick County Zoo.
"They do breed in captivity, but sometimes you have pairs that don't breed very well. Genetically we want offspring from them but behaviorally they just don't get along very well. So this is another way we can use artificial insemination to manage populations," said Cincinnati Zoo research director Bill Swanson.
The zoo says laproscopic artificial insemination in big cats is a relatively new procedure. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums suggested using it when it recommended breeding the tigers at the Sedgwick County Zoo.
"We're essentially dropping the sperm right on top of the eggs, which is really lowering the bar for the sperm so it doesn't have to swim right through the reproductive track," said Swanson.
Zoo officials hope the procedure will help advance the laproscopic AI technology and help them save the Amur tiger and other species.
"There's only been 3 pregnancies produced in the last 25 years with non-frozen semen and the last one was 10 years ago," said Swanson.
More about Amur Tigers from the Sedgwick County Zoo:
These majestic animals are endangered and their historical habitats in Asia and Russia have been drastically reduced. Some factors besides habitat loss that threaten tigers include growing human populations, illegal hunting (of both tigers and their prey species), and expanded trade in tiger parts that are used as traditional medicines for treatment of conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism. As a result of these factors there are likely fewer than 3,500 tigers of all species and fewer than 500 Amur tigers remaining in the wild.
Living fairly secretive lives, the remaining tigers can be found across the continent of Asia in a variety of environments including forests, grasslands, and swamps. Tigers seem to thrive in areas of dense vegetation with numerous sources of water and large populations of ungulate prey.
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