Dedicated collaborators around the world work toward one goal: improving our knowledge and techniques in support of endangered wildlife reproduction.
The "Big Tuskers" are African elephant bulls with more than 45kg of ivory per side. These magnificent creatures are vanishing as their tusks draw the attention of poachers. Only a few of these bulls remain throughout Africa. It is crucial to take urgent action now!
The Pro Fetura team plays a vital role here by collecting viable semen from these bulls during a short anaesthesia for radio collaring. The semen is then cryopreserved and serves as a genetic resource, should the wild Big Tuskers become extinct. If this ever happens, and only tuskless African elephants should survive, more than 50 million years of evolution in elephants with these special features "tusks" would have been wiped out by humans in just a few decades! Join the TUSKER TASK FORCE!
There are probably less than 2000 wild Sumatran elephants (Elephas maximus sumatranus) left in Indonesia. Another 500 live captive in camps managed by the governmen. Christopher Stremme is a German veterinarian and former elephant keeper who has worked and lived in Sumatra since 2004. His NGO funded work comprises of providing veterinary care for camp or injured wild elephants, teaching the elephant caretakers how to take care properly for their animals, educating local veterinarians at the Veterinary Faculty of Banda Aceh in elephant and general wildlife biology and medicine as well as supporting the Conservation Response Units (CRU). The CRU is using elephants for anti-illegal logging and anti-poaching patrols in the protected areas and to mitigate human-elephant conflicts at National Park boarders.
Responsible management of the captive elephants in Sumatra is of critical importance. Since wild elephant numbers are dwindling due to severe habitat loss, the camp elephant population will provide a genetic residual. Proper husbandry, health care and breeding management are therefore imperative for these critically endangered elephants.
Sumatran elephant conservation is supported through the book project of the famous Swiss Circus Knie. The Asian elephants formerly performing in the circus Knie are now residing at the new elephant breeding facility in Rapperswil (Knie´s Kinderzoo). In memory of the elephant circus era, Franco Knie Jr. dedicated a story book to his performing pachyderms. Parts from each sold book "Mapalaj -die weiße Perle" will be donated to the elephant Conservation Response Unit in Sumatra, Indonesia, for the protection of the last wild Sumatran elephants.
From the 40 known felid species, only a few exceptions are not threatened or endangered.
The Persian leopard, roaming from Iran to Russia, is one of the big cats under pressure. Captive breeding for reintroduction projects is inevitable. However, some males seem to lack interest in females, or even worse, attack and injure them. Performing artificial insemination (AI) with the semen of Persian leopard males that are not suitable for natural breeding is a way to increase the genetic pool.
Pro Fetura has helped to establish a protocol for semen collection and performing successful AI with fresh semen in several feline species. The next step is to work on protocols to freeze the spermatozoa, enabling long-term storage and shipment throughout the world. Such protocols will allow for genetic exchange with the least impact on rare animals, avoiding the trauma of transport. As can be imagined, isolated populations such as the aforementioned Persian leopard could benefit tremedously.
The king of the African cats is quietly vanishing. Encourangingly though, the lion represents an excellent model species for big cat reproduction physiology, since captive breeding appears without problems. In a joint effort with our South African colleagues, Pro Fetura is working on a research project to comprehensivly understand the reproduction physiology of this iconic African mammal. Semen collection and cryopreservation methods have been established, the male and female reproductive anatomy is currently studied by ultrasound and pregnancies monitored. We want to find out for example, how best to detect the estrus of a lioness, how many spermatozoa are necessary for successful fertilization, or if ovulation is only induced by mating?
There are at least 6 species of giraffes in Africa. The Baringo giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi) numbers fewer than 700 animals in the wild. In zoological facilities throughout the world, more than 500 of these giraffes remain. As can be imagined, giraffes are due to their anatomy not the best candidates for transportation. Additionally, as hoofed mammals, they are prone to many diseases domestic livestock is vulnerable to. Therefore, genetic exchange in terms of animal transfers between countries is problematic. Transfer of sperm and embryos is however far less complicated. With this project, we aim to establish semen collection, cryopreservation and embryo flushing techniques in giraffes. As an added benefit, it is envisaged to apply these methods to the rare relative of the giraffe, the okapi (Okapia johnstoni) in the future.
Rhino poaching in South Africa is currently a rampant problem. Most of the private game reserves practise dehorning of their animals.
We thrive to work with reserves and private owners, perform pregnancy checks in females and semen collection from the males for cryopreservation. In addition, we request to inform us on poached animals to collect testicles and ovaries in a desperate effort to preserve oocytes or sperm post mortem. In doing so, we can at least try to retain something out of this senseless killing and bank those otherwise lost genetics.
Storage and preservation of genetic resources is our objective and is regarded as an additional conservation tool. It is anticipated that wild and captive populations will not be managed separately in the future, but treated as one valuable pool of a species (The One- Plan- Approach). Biobanking viable cells today may help in the future to enhance breeding of any endangered animal population!