In a world first, the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Canada, has produced three healthy bison calves via in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

The calves were born in July 2016, and are part of a dedicated program designed to conserve the species. Only 5,000-7,000 wood bison remain in the wild – less than 5% of their original numbers. A major cause of this drop is the presence of disease (brucellosis and tuberculosis), introduced by exposure to infected cattle more than 80 years ago. This has been coupled with a significant loss in habitat, causing the fall in numbers.

Image: A bison calf with its mother. Photo by Caitlin Taylor.

wt-bison-1

The use of advanced reproductive techniques – artificial insemination, superovulation and in vitro fertilisation – allows researchers to disinfect the egg and sperm of the bison, minimising the chances of producing diseased offspring, or spreading disease. These technologies also permit the preservation of the genetic diversity of the animals, benefiting the wild population and aiding to conserve the species for the future.

Read the full story on the University of Saskatchewan website