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Reprod Fertil Dev. 2004;16(1-2):33-46.

Which reproductive technologies are most relevant to studying, managing and conserving wildlife?

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Department of Reproductive Sciences, Smithsonian's National Zoological Park, Conservation & Research Center, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA.


The advent of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and embryo transfer in the 1970s led to speculation about the potential value of these and other 'reproductive technologies' to conserving endangered species. So far, and for the most part, assisted breeding techniques that are routine in domesticated species are not easily adapted to wildlife. Species differences in reproductive form (anatomy/morphology) and function (mechanisms regulating reproductive success) limit the practical applicability for offspring production. Thus, the limiting factor is the lack of basic knowledge about thousands of unstudied species, the foundation that is essential to allowing reproduction to be enhanced and/or controlled. There now is excellent evidence that reproductive technologies are most useful as tools for studying how different species reproduce, especially defining novel and unique mechanisms. The present paper reviews the status and relevance of various reproductive technologies that are useful or have potential for wildlife. Modern examples of progress are provided indicating how these tools are being used to understand ways that wildlife species reproduce and, in some cases, how such knowledge has been used for successful assisted breeding, improved management and conservation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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