HEDGE AGAINST EXTINCTION? First orangutan born through artificial insemination
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/24/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Maggie is a beautiful 22-year-old orangutan and the first of her species to give birth through assisted reproductive technology. Her still unnamed baby was born on May 20 at the LEO center in Connecticut with a team of veterinarians and an infertility doctor who normally treats humans, Mark Leondires. Maggie's birth gives hopes to a species that many fear will soon become extinct.
Orangutans once thrived throughout Southeast Asia. The colorful breed now resides only in the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "This is the first time we have succeeded worldwide in helping an orangutan to reproduce using assisted reproductive technologies," Leondires says. He performed natural-cycle intrauterine insemination on Maggie using the sperm of another orangutan living at the center.
"To be able to repeat that at this facility, which is a unique space, and then transfer that knowledge to other zoos to generate species diversity within the orangutan population is our ultimate goal," he added.
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Orangutans are endangered species. They could no longer roam the Earth by 2023 if nothing is done to halt the mass destruction of their natural habitat.
Orangutans once thrived throughout Southeast Asia. The colorful breed now resides only in the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. More than 80 percent of the orangutan's habitat has been destroyed by illegal logging and the palm oil industry.
"They will clear-cut wild forest areas, burn them until everything is gone, and then they plant palm oil," Marcella Leone, director of the LEO Zoological Conservation Center, says. "Palm oil is in high demand because we use it in so many things, from biofuels to soaps to food."
There were an estimated 230,000 orangutans worldwide a century ago. There's now just an estimated 41,000 in Borneo and just 7,500 currently on Sumatra.
Leone said she hopes the LEO center's work will extend to preserving genetic material from wild animals and zoo animals as a sort of "ark" to help save them.
"There are so many animals now in rescue centers in Borneo and Sumatra that could be released into the wild, but there is just not enough wild to release them into," Leone says. She's run the private breeding center since 2009.
"So if we can perfect this [assisted reproduction] and work with people over there and collect genetic material and save it for the future, we really might be able to save this species," she added.
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