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Artificial insemination (AI)


Photo © Daryl Hoffman, Houston.

One of the first experiments with artificial insemination was undertaken with the african elephant cow Idunda in Basel Zoo in switzerland. They were unsuccesful.

In 1999 Dr. Dennis Schmitt (extern link), associate professor of veterinary medicine at Southwest Missouri State University, made history by being the first researcher to produce an elephant from artificial insemination. (The Asian elephant Haji in Dickerson Park Zoo, Springfield, U.S.A.).

AI has throughout the last years proven to be succesful with elephants, due to the efforts of Dr. Dennis Schmitt and the IZW (Institute for Zoo Biology and Wildlife Research in Berlin) crew: Dr. T. Hildebrandt, Dr. F. Göritz, Dr. R. Hermes and Dr. G. Fritsch. But this metod is very expensive, and has its drawbacks, why most facilities in the future will concentrate their efforts to establish a self supporting captive elephant population.

In 1998, two of the Indianapolis Zoos female African elephants, Kubwa and Ivory, became pregnant through artificial insemination (AI). They were the worlds first African elephants to become pregnant through AI!

In 2001 the female african Sabi gave birth to the male african calf Abu in Vienna Zoo, Austria. The semen was collected from the bull Tembo in Colchester Zoo, England, this was the first time in europe that artificial insemination in elephants resulted in pregnancy.

In the future, probably only Zoo bred elephants will be exhibited in Zoos, since it is difficult to import wild elephants from africa and Asia. India, for example, prohibited trading of wild elephants 1977, but captive elephants born under domestication are traded. An import of 7 african elephants from Botsawana/South africa 1999 to europe resulted in extreme negative critic from welfare organisations, why african elephant imports will probably also be rare, although some african populations has grown to such numbers that thousand of elephants has to be culled.

Therefore, each fertile individual is expremely important, and in some situations, an artificial insemanination is the only way to breed the animal, who othervise may become to old before a natural breeding may takes place. In other cases, some Zoos may avoid to keep bulls, but still want to breed their female elephants.