Reproductive biology and biotechnologies in wild felids.
Conservation strategies in natural habitats as well as in breeding centers are necessary for maintaining and reinforcing viable populations of wild felids. Among the fundamental knowledge that is required for conservation breeding, a solid understanding of reproductive biology is critical for improving natural breeding and enhance genetic diversity. Additionally, it offers the opportunity to develop assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in threatened and endangered species. Conservation breeding and reproductive biotechnologies of wild felids have advanced in the past decade. It has been clearly shown that female felids have species and individual patterns of reproductive cycles and respond differently to exogenous hormones. In males, several species still have poor semen quality often due to the loss of genetic diversity in small populations. To overcome the challenges of natural breeding (incompatibility between individuals or suboptimal environment) and mitigate inbreeding, artificial insemination, embryo production and embryo transfer have been further developed in 24 wild cat species. Major factors limiting ART success are inconsistent responses to ovarian stimulation, variable quality of gametes and embryos, and preparation of recipient females. Additional approaches including stem cell technologies have been explored for future medical applications. However, there still is a critical need for better knowledge of feline reproductive biology and improvement of ARTs efficiency to increase the genetic diversity and create sustainable populations of wild felids.