BIOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT OF REPRODUCTION IN CAPTIVE CRANES
Brown, Megan Elizabeth
Keefer, Carol L
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There are 15 species of cranes found throughout the world, 11 of which are listed as vulnerable or endangered. All 15 species are currently managed in captivity; however, with increased threats to wild crane habitats and populations, ex situ management becomes increasingly critical as a hedge against extinction. Reproduction and the production of offspring is required to ensure self-sustaining populations managed in ex situ conservation breeding programs. However, current reproductive success of the endangered whooping crane (Grus americana), as well as other species, maintained ex situ is suboptimal and hinders population sustainability and reintroduction goals. The objectives of this dissertation were to 1) develop a cryopreservation protocol for crane semen to improve genetic management in endangered cranes, 2) investigated seasonal hormone patterns and measured the impact of captive environment on hormone production and reproductive behaviors, and 3) retrospectively examine the effect of bird as well as management variables on egg fertility in whooping cranes. The findings demonstrated that 1) sperm of both whooping and white-naped crane performed better following cryopreservation when dimethyl-sulfoxide is utilized as a cryoprotectant, 2) seasonal fluctuations occur in hormone production in both sexes, while addition of a water feature to captive enclosures stimulated reproduction in females, and 3) female specific variables had the greatest influence on probability of egg fertility. Overall findings will help whooping crane management Continued research into the mechanisms controlling sperm sensitivity to cryo-damage, egg production, and fertilization are necessary to mitigate reproductive problems in captive crane species.