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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Recovery of gene diversity using long-term cryopreserved spermatozoa and artificial insemination in the endangered black-footed ferret

Published source details

Howard J.G., Lynch C., Santymire R.M., Marinari P.E. & Wildt D.E. (2016) Recovery of gene diversity using long-term cryopreserved spermatozoa and artificial insemination in the endangered black-footed ferret. Animal Conservation, 19, 102-111


This study is summarised as evidence for the intervention(s) shown on the right. The icon shows which synopsis it is relevant to.

Use artificial insemination Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A study in 2008–2011 in two ex-situ facilities in Wyoming and Virginia, USA (Howard et al. 2016) found that following artificial insemination, fewer than half of female black‐footed ferrets Mustela nigripes gave birth. Five out of 18 (28%) artificially inseminated female black-footed ferrets gave birth. Eight kits were born. Six of those kits subsequently went on to breed by natural mating. Kinship (a measure of relatedness within a population) was lower among these kits and their descendants than among the population as a whole. The study was conducted at the National Black‐Footed Ferret Conservation Center and at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Ferrets were managed in individual cages (1.0–3.6 × 1.3–6.0 m). Semen was collected from adult ferrets (1–6 years old) by electroejaculation and cryopreserved for 10–20 years. Females were inseminated by transabdominal injections of sperm.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)

Preserve genetic material for use in future captive breeding programs Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A controlled study in 1989–1998 and 2008–2011 in two captive facilities in Wyoming and Virginia, USA (Howard et al. 2016) found that artificial insemination using preserved genetic material increased genetic diversity and lowered measures of inbreeding in a captive population of black‐footed ferrets Mustela nigripes. Genetic diversity of the captive population was greater when eight black-footed ferret kits (and their offspring) born as a result of artificial insemination with preserved semen were incorporated (86.5–86.8%) than when the population reproduced naturally (86.3–86.6%). Inbreeding also decreased by 6% (data reported as inbreeding coefficients).In 1989–1998, semen were collected from 16 male ferrets (1–6 years old) by electroejaculation and cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen for 10–20 years. In 2008–2011, a total of 18 female ferrets were inseminated with the thawed samples. Their eight offspring went on to produce 32 offspring and grand-offspring by natural mating. Selection of female recipients was based on the analysis of the pedigree of the captive population.

(Summarised by Ricardo Rocha)