Jumbo revival

Published: Monday 15 July 2002

Bust to boom on the cards The dwindling wild elephant population in Thailand may soon see a turnaround with the world's first elephant sperm bank opening for business in Bangkok. Following a series of trials, Thai veterinarians have solved the problem of keeping pachyderm sperm viable after long periods of freezing. Artificial insemination of elephants with sperm from the bank would ease the problem of inbreeding caused by a dearth of bull elephants. Thai experts, along with specialists from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington and Germany's Zoo Biology and Wild Life Research, worked on the project. Apart from the collection of the sperm, the process involved painstaking semen screening for disease, ultrasound assessments and the checking of sperm quality. A major challenge was to prove that elephant semen could still inseminate a female after being thawed from its frozen state. The only cause for concern now is: what if this sperm is smuggled for cross-breeding with African elephants?

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