Two sand cat kittens born by IVF

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Two sand cat kittens born by IVF

The mother and litter are in good health in the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort (AWPR) The litter was produced by in-vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer at AWPR, which is home to almost 20 per cent of the world's captive sand cats. The 34 sand cats at AWPR make up the largest and most genetically significant captive population of sand cats in any zoological institution.

Sand cats are true desert dwellers, with colouring that blends in with their environment. The coat is soft and dense, mostly pale sandy brown to light grey, slightly darker on the back and whitish on the belly. A reddish streak runs across each cheek from the outer corner of the eyes; the lower half of the face and chest is whitish to pale yellow. The tawny reddish ears are black tipped, as is the tail, which also has a few narrow black rings near the tip.

There are pale cross stripes running down the flanks, almost invisible until the legs are stretched out. There are indistinct bars on the limbs. The broad head has large eyes placed greatly forward, and low set, large, tapered ears which provide keen hearing for habitat where prey is scarce.

Another desert adaptation is the long, dense, hairs covering the soles of the feet, providing insulation from the hot sands and facilitating quiet progress over loose surfaces. They have evolved a thick coat which insulates them from the alternating intense heat and cold of a desert environment.

This close relative of the European wildcat Felis silvestris shows a definite preference for extremely arid terrain, both sandy and stoney spaces with bushes. In Arabia, they are occasionally seen in rocky areas. They are found right across the Sahara, from Morocco and Mauritania in the west, as far as Egypt and the Sudan in the east. Many areas that appear suitable have no records of their presence. This may be true or just a result of limited observations.
... Quote:
No sand cat kitten has ever been born as a result of in-vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer. Our sand cat mother gave birth to two kittens. The kittens and mother are in a very good condition
said Farshid Merhdadfar, the Animal Collection Manager at AWPR.

The in-vitro fertilisation and embryo transfers would not be possible without AWPR's large number of sand cats. Eggs were harvested from five female donors, fertilised with the sperm from three male sand cats, and the resulting embryos were implanted in a separate group of four female recipients.

According to Dr Swanson, the cats at AWPR are totally unrelated to other sand cats held anywhere in captivity. "To introduce their genetic material to other populations helps build a stronger and more viable captive population."


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By netchicken: posted on 1-2-2010

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