Reviews of Reproduction
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Reviews of Reproduction (1999) 4 143-150
© 1999 Society for Reproduction and Fertility
DOI: 10.1530/ror.0.0040143
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Role of reproductive technologies and genetic resource banks in animal conservation

WV Holt and AR Pickard

In combination with modem reproductive technologies, there is potential to use frozen and stored germplasm (genetic resource banks) to support conservation measures for the maintenance of genetic diversity in threatened species. However, turning this idea into reality is a complex process, requiring interdisciplinary collaboration and clearly defined goals. As the number of species deserving the attention of conservation scientists is overwhelmingly large, yet detailed knowledge of reproductive physiology is restricted to relatively few of them, choosing which species to conserve is one of the most difficult issues to be tackled. Besides the direct application of technologically advanced reproductive procedures, modern approaches to non-invasive endocrine monitoring play an important role in optimizing the success of natural breeding programmes. Through the analysis of urine and faecal samples, this type of technology provides invaluable management information about the reproductive status of diverse species. For example, it is possible to diagnose pregnancy and monitor oestrous cycles in elephants and rhinos without causing stress through restraint for sample collection. In this review, we identify the potential contribution of reproductive biology and genetic resource banks to animal conservation, but also highlight the complexity of issues determining the extent to which this potential can be achieved.
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