NW Week

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Four wood bison pregnant at the Toronto Zoo thanks to reproductive technology

wood bison pregnant at the Toronto Zoo

Key Takeaways:

  • The Toronto Zoo reported the pregnancy of 4 wood bison, an endangered species in Canada, due to habitat loss and disease through reproductive technology.

According to a statement released by the zoo on Thursday, the pregnancies resulted from 13 years of research with the University of Saskatchewan on advancing aided reproductive techniques for wood bison.

“We are thrilled to be able to contribute to a brighter future for wood bison.” “This research is critical to genetic diversity, which is required for conservation efforts for wild bison populations across northwestern Canada,” said Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco, the zoo’s director of conservation science.

“The extinction of keystone species such as bison would significantly alter the landscape and the ecosystems that rely on them, ultimately threatening the community of species with which they coexist.”

The Toronto Zoo currently houses five male and 18 female wood bison. From mid-September to December, the zoo’s reproductive sciences team worked alongside the wildlife care team “moving bison through the handling system to undergo contrived inseminations or embryo transfers.”

Reproductive technology for wood bison; Image from CTV News

“Every step in the method could have a significant impact on the success of the bison’s pregnancies,” the zoo stated on Thursday. “From freezing and thawing the sperm or embryos, to transferring them to the females, to training or caring for the herd, each task is done with the utmost care for both the research and the wellbeing of our bison.”

Wood bison were once common in the boreal forests of northwestern Canada and Alaska. However, herds are now small and dispersed because of habitat changes, remaining only in northern British Columbia and Alberta and the southern Northwest Territories or Yukon.

“Although wood bison has downlisted from “endangered” to “threatened” status since 1988, ongoing diseases in wildwood bison populations, such as tuberculosis and brucellosis, continue to threaten this species,” the zoo stated. “Reproductive technologies as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization are important tools for improving genetic management and connectivity in small populations.”

“These techniques will assist us in overcoming the challenges of managing the endemic disease that threatens free-roaming wood bison herds and will eventually allow us to restore genetically diverse disease-free herds in the wild.”

Source: CTV News

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