Theriogenology 71 (2009) 200–213
Implementing artiﬁcial insemination as an effective tool for ex situ
conservation of endangered avian species
J.M. Blancoa,*, D.E. Wildtb, U. Ho¨ﬂec, W. Voelkerd, A.M. Donoghuee
a Centro de Estudios de Rapaces Ibe´ricas, Sevilleja de la Jara 45671 Toledo, Spain
b Conservation &Research Center, National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA
c Instituto de Investigacio´n en Recursos Cinege´ticos, IREC, Ciudad Real, Spain
d SIA Comanche Nation, 73029 OK, USA
e Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit, ARS, USDA, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA
Approximately 503 of the known species of birds are classiﬁed as ‘endangered’ or‘critical’. Captive propagation programs have
proven useful in maintaining genetic diversity and restoring wild populations of certain species, including the Peregrine falcon,
California condor and Whooping crane. Artiﬁcial insemination (AI) has the potential of solving problems inherent to reproductive
management of small, closed populations of endangered birds, including dealing withdemographic instability, physical and
behavioral disabilities, sexual incompatibility, lack of synchrony, and need to maintain gene diversity. In this review, we address the
necessary methods and factors that allow AI to be applied effectively to manage rare bird populations. It is clear that semen
availability and quality are the greatest limiting factors to implementing consistently successful AI forbirds. Behavioral sensitivity
to animal handling and the ability to minimize stress in individual birds also are keys to success. Multiple, deep vaginal
inseminations can improve fertility, particularly when semen quality is marginal. Laparoscopic methods of semen transfer also have
produced fertile eggs. All of these practices leading to successful AI remain dependent on having adequate basicknowledge on
female reproductive status, copulatory behavior, endocrine proﬁles and duration of fertility, especially as related to oviposition. The
overall greatest challenge and highest priority is deﬁning these normative traits, which are highly species-speciﬁc.
# 2008 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Keywords: Artiﬁcial insemination; Endangered species; Birds; Conservation; Sperm
1. Stateof the art
1.1. Brief historical perspective of avian AI
Artiﬁcial insemination (AI) was ﬁrst successful in
birds almost a century ago when Ivanov produced fertile
chicken eggs using semen recovered from the ductus
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 600 755156;
fax: +34 925 455 004.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org (J.M. Blanco).
0093-691X/$ – see front matter # 2008Published by Elsevier Inc.
deferens . The most widely used technique of
intravaginal insemination was ﬁrst reported by Quinn
and Burrows in 1936 . Since then, AI has evolved to
become an important, yet common production method
for the poultry industry. This assisted breeding
technique now is integral to commercial turkey
production,resulting in more than 300 million hatched
turkey poults annually in the United States (USDA
Statistical Service ). This same process also has been
adapted successfully to produce chicks in more than 40
types of wild birds, including species of raptors, cranes,
waterfowl, psittacines, and passerines . Some efforts
J.M. Blanco et al. / Theriogenology 71 (2009) 200–213
201have been emblematic of potential. For example,
Samour reported hatching more than 90 Peregrine
falcon chicks during an 8-y interval using AI .
Furthermore, there is no evidence that reproductive
success is compromised by artiﬁcial breeding, as
fertility to AI was comparable to natural mating in
the American kestrel .
1.2. Current use of AI in avian conservation