Cincy Science: Cincinnati Zoo CREW uses deep freeze to help animals breed, even after they're gone

CINCINNATI - Ever ask, "What is that?" Or, "Why is that?" In our "Cincy Science" feature, we talk with people who can answer those questions: The folks who do science in Cincinnati and the Tri-State.

When an Indian rhino gave birth to a calf at the Buffalo Zoo, it grabbed national attention. With only 60 of the species in captivity in North America, the birth seemed even more amazing considering the calf's father "Jimmy" died at the Cincinnati Zoo more than 10 years ago.

Terri Roth, Director of CREW (Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife) and vice president of conservation at the Cincinnati Zoo, explained when it comes to saving endangered species, the Cincinnati Zoo is banking on its cryopreservation research.

1. Tell me about Cincinnati Zoo’s CREW 

We’re kind of unique in Cincinnati actually having a zoo that supports a conservation research center like CREW. Most zoos don’t have an established research facility like ours.The focus is on propagation for both endangered animals and endangered plants – we work on both. Along those lines, we’re very interested in cryopreserving samples. 

Primarily we’re looking at managing these populations long term and we want to make sure we maintain genetic diversity. We’re trying to facilitate natural breeding and enhanced reproduction anyway we can that way. But in addition to that we develop assisted reproduction and artificial insemination (AI) and in some cases, in vitro fertilization, and some of the higher tech methods as well to try and ensure these species reproduce and to enable us to move genetic material around the country and even internationally without having to necessarily move the animal for breeding purposes.

WCPO Insiders can read the full Q&A and learn more about how the Cincinnati Zoo is leading the way in keeping many species alive and well.

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