Breakthrough for the survival of the speciesThe Przewalski's horse, aka the Dzungarian horse, is a rare and endangered wild horse native to the steppes of China and Mongolia. It was once extinct in the wild, but it has been reintroduced to its habitat, though in limited numbers. That's why it's such great news that a female foal was born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute after a 340-day pregnancy. It's the first time that a Przewalski’s horse is born thanks to artificial insemination, a success that represents a huge breakthrough for the survival of this species.
“It seems reasonable to assume that reproduction for the Przewalski’s horse would be similar to domestic horses, but it simply isn’t the case,” said SCBI reproductive physiologist Budhan Pukazhenthi. “After all these years of persevering, I can honestly say I was elated to receive the call informing me that the foal had been born. I couldn’t wait to see her! This is a major accomplishment, and we hope our success will stimulate more interest in studying and conserving endangered equids around the world.”It took seven years to perfect the technique that led to this birth!
The Smithsonian writes:
The usefulness of artificial insemination is that it does not require both animals to be together for a successful mating. The transport of animals to different locations can be difficult, dangerous, costly and potentially stressful to the individual. By contrast, the collection of semen can be safely accomplished under the supervision of veterinary staff and significantly improves the efficiency of managing small populations of endangered species. The birth of Anne and Agi’s filly required hormonal treatments for inducing ovulation in a mare, specialized animal-handling facilities, conditioning Anne to provide urine samples for hormone monitoring and routine ultrasounds. This accomplishment validates the importance of integrating animal management in the research and development of assisted reproductive technologies for endangered species.
Using ultrasound technology, Pukazhenthi confirmed the pregnancy about 35 days after the insemination. The mare’s pregnancy was monitored closely for 11 months measuring urinary hormone levels and visual keys (such as her growing belly).