World First Births!
Dolphins growing up and doing well.
In May 2001, two of Ocean Park's female dolphins, Ada and Gina delivered two healthy calves - a female and male. Their births were the result of the world's first successful conception using artificial insemination (AI) in bottlenose dolphins.
Today, the two are doing well at Ocean Park's Dolphin University where they can be seen swimming with their mothers daily, and helping people learn about marine mammal conservation.
10 years of dedication to breeding.
The breakthrough stemmed from collaboration between Ocean Park specialists and research teams at Hong Kong PolyU and in collaboration with SeaWorld Adventure Parks in the USA. It is the result of over ten years of effort.
Ocean Park has a long legacy of captive breeding expertise, and a focus on marine conservation stemming back to 1991 when it first initiated its conservation and education programs.
The new breakthrough births put Ocean Park and PolyU at the forefront of reproductive physiology and controlled breeding of marine mammals and is an important step in helping protect the bottlenose dolphins.
Importance of AI
Reducing risks and maximizing use of gene pool.
- greater genetic diversity.
- less risk without transporting parents.
- reduce numbers pulled from wild
- introduce new genes to isolated populations
Artificial insemination becomes important for both wild and captive dolphins. AI will allow maximum use of the captive gene pool without needing to risk animals and disrupt populations by transferring dolphins between facilities for breeding purposes. Additionally, it is hoped to reduce the number of dolphins pulled from the wild while also allowing the option of introducing new genes to very isolated populations.
How does AI Work?
Ultrasound technology key to success.
Semen is collected from a male dolphin, evaluated and prepared to be inserted into the reproductive tract of an ovulating female.
In the future, males may be far away from female. Researchers are now exploring ways to freeze semen samples allowing for transport over long distance.
To produce pregnancy, doctors must know when the female dolphin ovulates. However, dolphins tend to have very irregular cycles, making it difficult to predict.
Doctors in Hong Kong, however, were the first to use ultrasound technology successfully with a dolphin to determine ovulation and the ideal time to inseminate.