Calgary Zoo uses artificial insemination in bid to impregnate Amur tiger

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The Calgary Zoo's nine-year-old Amur tiger, Sarma, underwent assisted reproductive therapy last week. (Calgary Zoo - image credit)
The Calgary Zoo's nine-year-old Amur tiger, Sarma, underwent assisted reproductive therapy last week. (Calgary Zoo - image credit)

The Calgary Zoo used artificial insemination last week to try to get its female Amur tiger pregnant.

Nine-year-old Sarma was given oral hormone therapy for a month leading up to the assisted reproductive therapy procedure to adjust her hormone cycle, and injections to stimulate her to ovulate, the zoo said in a release.

She was then anesthetized and inseminated with semen collected from seven-year-old Youri.

"Sarma and Youri are genetically significant animals within the global Amur tiger population," the zoo said in a release.

"Supporting them to successfully produce offspring is critical for the international efforts to save wild Amur tigers from extinction."

Amur tigers, previously known as Siberian Tigers, are classified as endangered with an estimated 540 left in the wild.

The Calgary Zoo performed assisted reproductive therapy last week on its female Amur tiger, Sarma, in a bid to impregnate her with semen from Youri, its male tiger. In this image, the male's semen is extracted.
The Calgary Zoo performed assisted reproductive therapy last week on its female Amur tiger, Sarma, in a bid to impregnate her with semen from Youri, its male tiger. In this image, the male's semen is extracted.(Calgary Zoo)

Since female tigers are induced-ovulators, the act of mating has previously been the only way for the female to release an egg for fertilization, the zoo says.

But recent advances in reproductive science have shown that with the use of hormone therapy to induce ovulation and assisted reproductive techniques, artificial insemination has a higher margin of success than it used to.

In the coming weeks, the care team will be comparing Sarma's baseline hormone levels in fecal samples to new fecal samples and looking for changes in her weight and behaviour, such as nesting.

"If the procedure was successful, the fertilized eggs will now have implanted in her uterus, where cubs will develop over a three-and-a-half-month gestation period," the release said.

Seven-year-old Amur tiger, Youri, has so far not mated naturally with his female counterpart at the Calgary Zoo.
Seven-year-old Amur tiger, Youri, has so far not mated naturally with his female counterpart at the Calgary Zoo.(Calgary Zoo)