How can we introduce ART into wild felid conservation in practice? Joint experience in semen collection from captive wild felids in Europe.
Although artificial reproductive techniques (ART) are considered to be a valuable tool for species conservation, information about their introduction into clinical practice for wild felids is limited. The aim of this paper was to jointly describe cases of non-experimental sperm collection from males of various species of wild felids, performed by three European centers focused on feline reproduction. In total, the article presents 22 attempts of semen collection in 12 species of wild felids. The reasons for semen collection were: fertility assessment (10 cases), artificial insemination (5 cases), sperm rescue (postmortem collection for cryopreservation, 5 cases), and sperm banking (in vivo collection for cryopreservation, 2 cases). Semen collection was successful (defined as at least 1 × 106 spermatozoa) in 15 cases. The failures in obtaining spermatozoa were most probably due to (1) male infertility, (2) wrong age/non-breeding season, or (3) recent multiple copulations. The cases presented here confirm that although ART have been introduced into clinical practice, they are mostly used in cases of infertility, not as routine breeding tools. Higher involvement of zoological gardens and private breeders is required, as many chances for preservation of valuable material are lost.