Survival for many endangered wildlife got a boost recently when representatives from the Louisiana State University system and the Audubon Institute in New Orleans signed an agreement to work more closely on animal reproduction projects.
One of their first projects will be trying to save endangered tigers by using lions as surrogate mothers.
"We are testing ways to use more common animals as surrogate mothers for animals that are more rare," said Dr. Robert Godke, director of the reproductive physiology research program at the LSU Agricultural Center, one of the cooperating entities. His program has gained a worldwide reputation for pioneering work in the development of assisted reproductive techniques in farm animals.
Godke is working with Dr. Earle Pope, a scientist at the Audubon Center for Research on Endangered Species (ACRES).
Since last May they have made more than a dozen attempts at taking eggs from female tigers at the Baton Rouge Zoo, combining them with sperm from male tigers at the Audubon Institute and transferring the embryos into female lions at the Audubon Institute. But so far none of the attempts has resulted in a pregnancy.
"These things take time," said LSU Ag Center research associate Richard Denniston. "This has never been done before. But we know there is the potential for inter-species transfer."
Signing a formal agreement allows the collaboration to continue with a sharing of equipment and personnel. It also becomes easier to procure funding that can benefit both institutions.
Another project is trying to save bongo antelopes in Africa from near extinction by using the more plentiful eland antelope as a surrogate mother.
Scientists at LSU's School of Veterinary Medicine have traveled to Kenya
with bongo embryos, which they then transferred to eland females. If any of the
resulting pregnancies is successful, the world will see
Contact: Linda Foster Benedict
Louisiana State University Agricultural Center