Dolphin research makes breakthrough in Hong Kong. (fwd)

From: Mike Williamson (pita@www1.wheelock.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 27 2000 - 09:06:39 EDT


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 26 Jun 2000 23:15:54 +0100
From: Vincent Smith <vincent.smith@tesco.net>
To: ECS-all@mailbase.ac.uk
Subject: Dolphin research makes breakthrough in Hong Kong.

Dolphin research makes breakthrough in Hong Kong.
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CHINA: June 26, 2000

HONG KONG - Scientists in Hong Kong have scored a world first
by successfully inseminating a dolphin artificially, paving the way
to preserve endangered dolphin species and eliminate
inbreeding in captivity.

Using ultrasound techniques, scientists at the Hong Kong
Polytechnic University were able to accurately predict ovulation in
dolphins for the first time, associate professor Fiona Brook, said
on Saturday.

Dolphins in general have very irregular ovarian cycles, making
artificial insemination very difficult.

"With ultrasound, we can predict when ovulation will happen,
then we can inseminate at the right time," Brook, who headed
the 10-year project, told Reuters.

Scientists in the United States have previously tried to artificially
inseminate dolphins but the attempts proved futile.

"They were unsuccessful because they could not define the time
of ovulation," said Natalie Rourke, chief veterinarian at Hong
Kong's Ocean Park, which collaborated with the Hong Kong
Polytechnic University on the project.

While dolphins in general do not have problems reproducing,
inbreeding has become a headache with dolphins in captivity,
which produces genetically weaker offspring.

"With AI (artificial insemination), it means that we can take
semen from outside facilities and inseminate our females to
broaden our genetic variance," Rourke said.

Brook said: "It's an amazing event for the genetic health of the
animal as inbreeding will produce weaker and weaker animals."

Ada, a 20-year-old bottlenose dolphin at the park, is now two
months pregnant and is due to deliver in May 2001. She was
impregnated with sperm harvested from Molly, a 17-year-old
male bottlenose, also resident at Ocean Park.

Bottlenose dolphins are found in Southeast Asian seas, and
both Ada and Molly originate from Indonesian waters.

BRINGING NEW HOPES

The breakthrough will help reduce the need to bring in dolphins
from the wild for breeding purposes and may even enhance
reproduction in endangered dolphin species.

"With AI, it can perhaps lead to the reduction of animals taken
from the wild into captive facilities to increase their genetic
variance. So wild populations may not be interfered with," Rourke
said.

The next step for the researchers would be to develop a way to
freeze dolphin semen, which will then allow semen exchanges
between facilities to strengthen genetic pools.

"The next important thing is to develop insemination with frozen
semen. Once we can use frozen semen, then we can import
frozen semen from other facilities," Rourke said.

"In October, that is when a few of our females will ovulate, we will
time the artificial insemination using frozen semen."

Story by Tan Ee Lyn

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