The world's first successful artificial insemination of an elephant in captivity has occurred at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, MO. The pregnancy was confirmed by blood progesterone levels, according to zoo veterinarian Dennis Schmitt. The 17-year-old Asian elephant is due by mid-November 1999, following a 20- to 22-month gestation. The father is the zoo's bull. If perfected, the method of artificial insemination used could help replenish the aging captive elephant population in North America and improve the captive elephant stock worldwide. It also has implications for maintaining gene diversity in isolated wild herds.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service has approved a pilot project to propagate endangered lake sturgeon for reintroduction into the French Broad River in northeastern Tennessee. Chris Coco, Tennessee Aquarium Curator of Fishes, will oversee the project, rearing fertilized eggs or fingerling lake sturgeon. Once large enough, they will be released into the river. Slow to mature, however, restoration of this species may take years to achieve. This large freshwater fish formerly inhabited the Tennessee River, but disappeared due to overfishing, habitat destruction and fragmentation associated with dams. International trade in sturgeon products such as caviar, cartilage and meat have contributed to its worldwide decline, with 25 of the world's sturgeon and related paddlefish species considered globally threatened. CITES recently approved international trade regulations protecting all 27 species. It is unclear, however, what role the US will play as both a supplier and consumer. Due to the decline of the sturgeon populations in the Caspian Sea, US populations will be under more pressure. To address sustainable management, the Tennessee Aquarium, TRAFFIC North America and the Southeast Aquatic Research Institute (SARI) held a symposium 7-8 May, 1998, focusing on the trade, harvest and conservation of NA sturgeons and paddlefish. Conference proceedings will be jointly published by SARI and TRAFFIC.
Thirteen zoos exhibiting snow leopards have agreed to join a "Natural Partnerships Progamme" with the International Snow Leopard Trust (ISLT) to support field projects. Letters of invitation and brochures have recently been sent to all zoos with captive snow leopards, inviting them to participate in this new field conservation initiative. The Program has four levels of membership and a full range of benefits accrue to participating institutions depending upon their level of membership. These benefits include detailed final reports with photographs, speakers, a special correspondence program called "From the Field" from ISLT field biologists and in-country representatives to a selected number of the participating zoo's patrons to facilitate fundraising plans, and copies of all regularly published and special ISLT publications. The zoos which have joined the program so far are: Columbus, Calgary, Franklin Park, Marwell, Mill Mountain, Milwaukee County, Sacramento, San Antonio, St. Louis, Utica, Woodland Park, Thoiry (France), and Parco Natura Viva (Verona, Italy). According to Dan Wharton, AZA Snow Leopard SSPŠ Coordinator, the offer fits neatly with the AZA's Long Range Plan for linking AZA institutional members and programs with range countries and national and international conservation organizations.
Information on the program can also be obtained at http://www.snowleopard.org/islt. ISLT's website also contains extensive information about snow leopards, ISLT's many programs throughout Central Asia, ISLT's organization and people, and ISLT.