Bill Swanson [00:00:00] Yeah, it's really essential - the semen freezing in particular, but you can also extend this to oocyte freezing or embryo freezing. But semen freezing because the semen is the easiest thing for us to collect from wild cats, and you can freeze that sperm.
Bill Swanson [00:00:14] And again, with domestic livestock or humans, we've been freezing sperm for decades and decades, and at least in the cattle industry, the dairy cattle industry, it's the primary way that offspring are being produced is with frozen-sperm artificial insemination.
Bill Swanson [00:00:30] So, we know from that research that frozen sperm is viable for at least 50 years, and there have been offspring produced in livestock with semen frozen for 50 years, and probably much, much longer - for hundreds of years that we can store that sperm.
Bill Swanson [00:00:46] So, from a genetic perspective, it gives us a great way to preserve gene diversity within a liquid nitrogen tank, and not have to maintain these large living populations, which are the main challenges that we have in zoos. We just don't have the space to house 300 ocelots. We have 80 ocelots, and that's pretty much filling up all the space that we have.
Bill Swanson [00:01:08] So, with that many animals, just like the wild populations, you can't maintain gene diversity. You just don't have enough animals to do that. But if you can use frozen semen to introduce new genetics into that population, you can keep that population sustainable, just as if you had three to five hundred animals. But you have to make sure that that frozen semen is viable enough that you can produce offspring when you need it, and then periodically produce living offspring from that frozen semen to get the genes back into the living population.
Bill Swanson [00:01:39] So, for management in zoos, that's great. It does give us a way to move genes between different zoos, but we're exploring moving genes between wild populations back to zoo-based populations, and from zoo-based populations back to the wild. And that lets us do that as well.
Bill Swanson [00:01:56] And it lets us maintain so much of that gene diversity in a much less expensive, simpler way, just within a liquid nitrogen tank. So for 100 dollars a month, I can have the sperm from 50 ocelots in one tank, and be able to maintain the gene diversity of those 50 animals for hundreds of years.
Bill Swanson [00:02:14] It's a tremendous resource, but we have to have the expertise to be able to use it successfully.