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For the first time Iber­ian lynx embryos are col­lected and preserved

pub­lished 24 March 2013 | mod­i­fied 08 March 2014

Iberian lynxIn Feb­ru­ary two Iber­ian lynx females who belong to the Iber­ian lynx Con­ser­va­tion Breed­ing Pro­gram (ILCBPS) were cas­trated in order to guar­an­tee a bet­ter qual­ity of life and pre­vent pos­si­ble health prob­lems.

During two con­sec­u­tive breed­ing sea­sons, “Aza­har”, a female lynx from the Cen­tro Nacional de Repro­dução de Lince Ibérico in Silves, Por­tu­gal, expe­ri­enced prob­lems dur­ing par­tu­ri­tion and an emer­gency cae­sarean oper­a­tion was required in each case. The Iber­ian Lynx Con­ser­va­tion Breed­ing Pro­gram rec­om­mended not to breed “Aza­har” again. In this sit­u­a­tion it was decided to try to pre­serve her genetic mate­r­ial by col­lect­ing embryos and freez­ing the ovar­ian cor­tex after remov­ing ovaries by cas­tra­tion. Three embryos and the ovar­ian cor­tex were pre­served.

Sal­iega”, the other female, is located in the Cen­tro de Cría de el Ace­buche, in Doñana, Spain. “Sal­iega” was the first Iber­ian lynx who was bred in cap­tiv­ity in 2005. In July 2012 she suf­fered from a mam­mary tumor after lac­tat­ing her cur­rent lit­ter. The risk of mam­mary tumor recidi­vism, her advanced age (12 years) and the fact that she already gave birth to 16 cubs dur­ing the last 8 years was the basis for the deci­sion to cas­trate her as well. “From her we only flushed unfer­tilised eggs, thus the male was not fer­tile”, said Natalia Miko­laewska, a doc­toral stu­dent from the Leib­niz Insti­tute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW). “Her genetic mate­r­ial in terms of ovar­ian cor­tex oocytes was frozen as well”, com­ments Natalia.

The IZW team from Berlin, Ger­many, went to these breed­ing cen­tres in Spain and Por­tu­gal to obtain embryos by flush­ing the oviducts and freeze ovar­ian tis­sue imme­di­ately after surgery. The obtained embryos and ovar­ian pieces are stored in liq­uid nitro­gen. Now they are kept at the Museo Nacional de Cien­cias Nat­u­rales de Madrid (CSIC) for fur­ther usage in the breed­ing pro­gramme.

The spe­cial­ists of the IZW per­formed a pio­neer­ing pro­ce­dure to obtain and freeze embryos in a wildlife species. Based on their expe­ri­ence in the domes­tic cat, they devel­oped a method for cry­op­re­serv­ing oocytes and embryos of wild cat species. This method has recently been pub­lished on 22 Feb­ru­ary in the jour­nal BMC Vet­eri­nary Research. “Seven days after mat­ing we expected to flush embryos from the uterus. In both cases, how­ever, oocytes and embryos were still within the oviducts. Thus, the embryo devel­op­ment in lynxes is slower than in domes­tic cats”, says Prof Kata­rina Jewgenow from the IZW spe­cial­ist team.

The next step we are dis­cussing right now is to implant these embryos [from “Aza­har”] into a fos­ter mother, which might be an Eurasian lynx female”, adds Jewgenow.

The Iber­ian lynx is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species™ as Crit­i­cally Endan­gered. A decade ago, less than 200 indi­vid­u­als were left. The remain­ing pop­u­la­tion is located in south­ern Spain.

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at IZW. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.
(Source: IZW press release, 22.03.2013)

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