Sen­sa­tional off­spring of Asian golden cats, All­wet­ter Zoo — Germany

pub­lished 10 May 2013 | mod­i­fied 05 April 2014

Asian Golden catTwins were born in All­wet­ter Zoo in Mun­ster, Ger­many, after world’s first arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion in Asian golden cat. One kit­ten is being fed by the mother, the other by a zookeeper.

Asian golden cats are con­sid­ered Near Threat­ened and close to Vul­ner­a­ble accord­ing the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species, which could make breed­ing in zoos impor­tant to pre­vent extinc­tion. In Europe the Asian golden cat (Pard­ofe­lis tem­minkckii) is only kept in seven zoos, of wich three are located in Ger­many (Hei­del­berg, Mun­ster and Wup­per­tal), and the species does not appear to breed well in cap­tiv­ity. Male and female do not always accept each other, which was also the case in All­wet­ter Zoo. With only a few zoos world­wide keep­ing this species, exchange of ani­mals is not eas­ily achieved. All things con­sid­ered, zoo staff decided to apply arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion for pro­duc­ing off­spring, although hardly any suc­cess had been recorded with this tech­nique in wild cats.

There­fore All­wet­ter Zoo staff is pleased with the breed­ing suc­cess of their Asian golden cats. Even more so because con­cep­tion was achieved by arti­fi­cial insem­i­na­tion, which is the world’s first suc­cess­ful attempt in this species — with a lit­ter of two born on 7 April!

Dur­ing the whole pro­ce­dure the Zoo’s vet­eri­nar­ian was sup­ported by an expert from the com­pany GEO­lifes, which spe­cialises in vet­eri­nary ser­vice for ani­mal repro­duc­tion. Semen of the male cat was col­lected while he was anaes­thetised. After micro­scopic analy­sis showed that the sperm qual­ity was good, the female was observed and mon­i­tored by ultra­sound until mature ovar­ian fol­li­cles were present. Ovu­la­tion was hor­mon­ally trig­gered, after which the anaes­thetised female was insem­i­nated. Finally, after 85 days of ges­ta­tion two kit­tens were born.

Asian golden cats are eas­ily dis­turbed, espe­cially dur­ing preg­nancy, so it was decided to keep the female shielded from the pub­lic in a spe­cific part of the indoor enclo­sure. As she was mon­i­tored by secu­rity cam­era con­tin­u­ously, the zoo staff soon dis­cov­ered that after birth the mother was only tak­ing care of one kit­ten of the lit­ter of two. Because the off­spring was con­sid­ered very impor­tant for the pop­u­la­tion size of the Asian golden cat in zoos, it was decided to hand-​rear the kit­ten that was rejected by the mother. Both kit­tens are doing well so far.

Asian golden cats have been kept in All­wet­ter Zoo since 1985. The first breed­ing pair came from Berlin Zoo and pro­duced sev­eral lit­ters. In 2003 two young cats came to the Zoo as a gift from the Saigon Zoo. These ani­mals from unre­lated genetic ori­gin were extremely valu­able for the Euro­pean breed­ing pro­gramme. The cur­rent breed­ing pair was born in the zoo of Wup­per­tal and Hei­del­berg respec­tively, while the roots to be found in Mun­ster. Both cats’ grand­moth­ers stem from Munster’s breed­ing line.

In Asia, the pop­u­la­tion of Asian golden cats in the wild is decreas­ing due to habi­tat destruc­tion by defor­esta­tion through­out much of its range, and ille­gal hunt­ing and wildlife trade of both skin and bones. Nev­er­the­less the sta­tus of the Asian golden cat in the wild is dif­fi­cult to deter­mine because this elu­sive species is rarely seen and there­fore not much is known about the species.

Since 1993 the Euro­pean con­ser­va­tion breed­ing pro­gramme, Euro­pean Endan­gered species Pro­gramme or EEP, of the Asian golden cat is coor­di­nated by Hei­del­berg Zoo. Cur­rently, 27 Asian golden cats live in Euro­pean zoos, includ­ing the lat­est arrivals in Mun­ster, while there are only 51 ani­mals kept in zoos worldwide.

(Source: All­wet­ter Zoo news, 17.04.2013; Wild Cats of the World by Sun­quist & Sun­quist, 2002)

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