A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
For all you Sand Cat fans out, there is reason to celebrate! Project Sand Cat!! The Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort(AWPR) which lives up to the reputation that United Arab Emirates has for over the top, realistic constructions (most notably the 300 artificial islands known as The World) has succeeded in the first ever species-specific in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer which has produced a Sand Cat kitten now on exhibit at AWPR.
Dr. Bill Swanson, Director of Animal Research with the Cincinnati Zoo, is working with AWPR, The Living Desert located in Palm Desert, California and Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, New York on Project Sand Cat. AWPR is home to 26 Sand Cats, all unrelated to Sand Cats in the U.S.
For the initial stage of the project, sperm and oocytes were taken from the Sand Cats at AWPR. Then embryos from AWPR Sand Cats were transferred via IVF to cats at The Living Desert. Swanson states that IVF is a preferable method of attaining successful pregnancy over Artificial Insemination (AI) because much less sperm is required. Unfortunately, the embryos transferred to The Living Desert Sand Cats did not take. About half of the embryos from Project Sand Cat have not been used and Swanson hopes to find suitable female candidates in the near future so there may be more IVF Sand Cats soon!
Project Sand Cat is incredible because it has lead to new founders of the SSP (Species Survival Plan) without requiring the movement of any cats from the Middle East to the US and vice versa.