Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Toronto, Ontario: Two bison calves, were successfully born through artificial insemination on July 2, 2014 and July 5, 2014. It has been determined by Zookeepers that both calves are female.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the Toronto Zoo has had wood bison calves born through artificial insemination, as part of an ongoing research program with our collaborators at the University of Saskatchewan and Parks Canada.
“Reproductive technologies, such as artificial insemination, are important tools for improving the genetic management of small populations,” says Dr. Gabriela Mastromonaco, Curator of Reproductive Programs and Research, Toronto Zoo. “These techniques will help us overcome the challenges of managing the endemic disease that is threatening wood bison herds in the wild. Preservation and distribution of disease-free genetic material, in the form of sperm or embryos, will enable us to maintain genetically diverse disease-free herds in captivity and the wild.”
Gestation period for the wood bison is 9 to 9 1/2 months. Cows leave the herd and give birth alone and rejoin the herd with the calf as soon as it is able to stand, which is about 2 to 3 hours. Calves nurse for up to one year and remain with their mother for three at which time they become sexually mature. Full maturity does not come until they are eight years old. The wood bison life span is about twenty years.
Toronto Zoo has been involved in wood bison conservation since 1977 with captive breeding and reintroduction of animals back into the wild. Since that time, efforts from various organizations have resulted in the species being down listed from “endangered” to “threatened”. On-going disease concerns in remaining wood bison populations continue to threaten this species.
Want to learn more? Stop by the Zoo’s Wood Bison Exhibit in the Canadian Domain on Thursday, July 24, 2014 to meet Dr. Mastromonaco at 11:00am and 2:00pm for a special question and answer session. This encounter is to honour our 40 Day Animal Countdown in celebration of the Zoo’s 40th Anniversary on Friday, August 15, 2014.