Friday, January 25, 2013

Mexican Wolf Doing Well After Making Priceless Contribution

Wolf F613 and her pup in 2007 at Cincinnati Zoo
Early yesterday morning, a small team of Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) staff and volunteers ventured to the WCC's endangered species facility on an important mission: to catch a wolf. It was the first step to help preserve an endangered species. The subject of our undertaking was Mexican gray wolf F613, one of the 15 critically endangered lobos that call the WCC home. The 13-year-old female is beyond her breeding years, but this does preclude her from contributing to the future survival of her species. Maintaining genetic diversity within the Mexican gray wolf population is a challenge so members of the Mexican Wolf Species Survival Plan (MWSSP) management group ask that older females in the program are spayed (for their own health benefit) and their viable eggs (oocytes) conserved for future use in the Mexican wolf in vitro fertilization program.

Our team was confident that the capture would be a success, but we knew staying nimble with outdoor temperatures hovering around 0°F would be a challenge. Naturally ill-equipped for the cold, we bundled up to the max. All our layers made us appear especially menacing as we lumbered through the spacious enclosure in order to herd the wolves into capture boxes (wooden doghouse-like structures with removable roofs.) Thankfully, we did not need to move much at all, our mere presence prompted the shy lobo to take refuge in the box.

After we successfully crated F613, we carefully brought the kennel down from our remote endangered species facility to load into our van. After a short drive, we were greeted by the friendly and accommodating team at the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital in Norwalk, CT.

Dr Charlie Duffy, who has been an invaluable friend to the WCC for years, successfully spayed F613 without a hitch. The ovaries were then put on ice, packed in a special canister, and rushed to the airport to catch the next flight to Missouri! By late afternoon, we received word that the special cargo arrived safely at St Louis Zoo where all oocytes were extracted and preserved cryogenically. Within 4 hours of her capture, F613 was returned home where she and her three daughters reside off exhibit. Thanks to F613 and the Norwalk Veterinary Hospital, the future of the lobo is looking brighter.

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