Breeding Endangered Animals
The Toronto Zoo manages captive breeding programs for most of their large mammals including the big cats, great apes, and giraffes. This can involve pregnancy checks, timed introductions, and hormone treatment, Gabriela Mastromonaco, Curator of Reproductive Programs for the Toronto Zoo, told me in a recent interview.
Most of the animals Gabriela’s department works with are threatened in the wild, whether they are vulnerable or actually endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, or other reasons. Which means that her department can make a real difference in whether or not a species survives.
Recent success stories by Gabriela and her department include providing the science behind the recent birth of a critically endangered Sumatran Tiger at Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, Washington.
Also, the department’s research has helped find a first step in solving egg binding in reptiles. “Females get stuck with their eggs inside of them, and it can actually kill them”, Gabriela explained. Scientists found that hormone levels differ between normal females and egg bound females, which suggests there may be a way to force them to lay the eggs so they don’t die. Such findings can be applied to help endangered reptiles such as Komodo Dragons.
Gabriela shares a sentiment that is common among people who work with animals at zoos. She wishes that “everything could be free and there could be thousands of them”. But the reality of our world today is such that many animals are threatened in the wild, and zoos are a viable way of keeping a species alive. Add in breeding research and activities, and a species can be given a strong chance for survival.