CCRM is pleased to announce it has been awarded a grant from the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Conservation Grants Fund to evaluate the fertility of the endangered male snow leopard. Snow leopard zoo populations have been steadily declining for more than 20 years. The goal of the research is to determine what factors may be contributing to the snow leopards’ low reproductive success in captivity.
CCRM Senior Scientist Jason R. Herrick, Ph.D. will be teamed with Rachel M. Santymire, Ph.D., director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology for Lincoln Park Zoo, and Cheryl L. Morris, Ph.D., Associate Scientist of Comparative Nutrition of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and Iowa State University.
In the last six years, Dr. Herrick has evaluated 16 male snow leopards during the breeding season. In stark contrast to the previously published research, nearly 40 percent of the snow leopards have had very low numbers of sperm and a reduced proportion of normal sperm.
“Our team of researchers will be evaluating various factors that might be impacting the male snow leopards’ fertility, including nutrition and diet, environmental factors, such as light exposure, and the size of the exhibit,” said Dr. Herrick. “With less than 7,000 snow leopards that remain in their natural habitat, zoo-based programs are vital to the species’ survival. Through our efforts, we’d like to create an environment where the snow leopards can thrive in captivity.”
Click here to watch Fox31 Denver News segment on the snow leopard research.