Preserve genetic material for use in future captive breeding programs

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Two studies evaluated the effects of preserving genetic material for use in future captive breeding programs. One study was in Mexico and one was in the USA.



  • Survival (2 studies): A study in Mexico found that a series of non-traditional techniques, combined with natural mating, produced five aoudad embryos that could be cryogenically preserved. A study in USA, found that artificial insemination using preserved genetic material increased genetic diversity and lowered inbreeding in a captive black‐footed ferret population.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A study (date not stated) in a zoo in Mexico (López–Saucedo et al. 2013) found that using a series of non-traditional techniques, combined with natural mating, five embryos were produced from aoudad Ammotragus lervia that could be cryogenically preserved. The five embryos were obtained from just one of the three female aoudad, with the low embryo recovery rate being due to a low level of fertilization in vivo. The oestrus and superovulation of three female aoudad were synchronized. Procedures followed those used for domestic sheep combined with subcutaneous osmotic pumps for delivering the follicle-stimulating hormone. An aoudad ram was introduced for natural mating at the anticipated time of oestrous. Embryos were collected five and a half days later by incision through the abdominal wall. Embryos were cryopreserved, for use in conservation breeding programs (potentially by transferring to surrogates, such as domestic hybrids between aoudad and sheep or goats).

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A controlled study in 1989–1998 and 2008–2011 in two captive facilities in Wyoming and Virginia, USA (Howard et al. 2016) found that artificial insemination using preserved genetic material increased genetic diversity and lowered measures of inbreeding in a captive population of black‐footed ferrets Mustela nigripes. Genetic diversity of the captive population was greater when eight black-footed ferret kits (and their offspring) born as a result of artificial insemination with preserved semen were incorporated (86.5–86.8%) than when the population reproduced naturally (86.3–86.6%). Inbreeding also decreased by 6% (data reported as inbreeding coefficients).In 1989–1998, semen were collected from 16 male ferrets (1–6 years old) by electroejaculation and cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen for 10–20 years. In 2008–2011, a total of 18 female ferrets were inseminated with the thawed samples. Their eight offspring went on to produce 32 offspring and grand-offspring by natural mating. Selection of female recipients was based on the analysis of the pedigree of the captive population.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation
Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation - Published 2020

Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

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