Twins 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.
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)