Preserving Africa´s last great tuskers

Poaching for ivory dramatically increases the pressure on individual elephants carrying the iconic large tusks. These are often breeding bulls in their prime. Removing these magnificent bulls out of the population allows males with smaller or no tusks to breed more frequently and thus pass their genes to a greater number of offspring.

To ensure the genetic survival of the large tuskers, GEOlifes- Animal Fertility and Reproductive Research will collect and cryopreserve semen of South Africa´s largest male elephants while testing a new protocol for the standing sedation of wild African elephant bulls. The ejaculates will be frozen in liquid nitrogen using a recently developed (through IEF funding) low-tech, field-friendly method.

Viable, cryopreserved spermatozoa will be stored at the National Zoological Gardens Biomaterial Bank in South Africa. Through this innovative and insightful approach, semen may be stored for decades and thus represent a valuable genetic resource. Artificial insemination with frozen-thawed semen has been successful in African elephants, thus, the “tusker genetics” may be revived in the future, should the iconic bulls become extinct in the wild.