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Birth of Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary following artificial insemination: its significance to Koala conservation

S.d Johnston,1 , Pa.R.McGowan1, P.O'Callaghan2, R. Cox3, B. Houlden4, S. Haig2 & G. Taddeo5

1School of Veterinary Science and Animal Production, The University of Queensland, 4072
2Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Jesmond Rd., Fig Tree Pocket, 4069
3Bioquest Ltd., North Ryde, 2113
4Zoological Parks Board of New South Wales, PO Box 20, Mosman 2088 and School of Biological Science, The University of New South Wales, 2052.
5Cook Industries Australia Pty Ltd, Eight Mile Plains, 4122

ABSTRACT

This paper documents the successful development of an artificial insemination (Al) program in the Koala. Protocols using 2 different methods of ovulation induction and insemination technique are described. In the first trial, interrupted coitus was used to successfully induce ovulation in 9 Koalas. Five of these females were inseminated whilst conscious using a modified folely catheter; 2 of the 5 females produced offspring. A further 4 females were inseminated using a technique which allowed visualisation and deposition of semen into the most cranial portion of the urogenital sinus (urogenitoscopic insemination). This procedure required the female to be anaesthetised while semen was a to be published by April 2002 deposited using a 3.5 gauge "Tom-cat" catheter. Three of the 4 females inseminated by this technique produced pouch young. Micro-satellite analysis of pouch young excluded "teaser" males as possible sires, and revealed that all offspring were sired by donor
sperm. As part of an alternative Al protocol, 8 females were also induced to ovulate using an injection of 250 1.U. of hCG. A luteal phase was confirmed in all eight Koalas but only one of these females gave birth following urogenitoscopic insemination. The pouch young produced in this study are the first of any marsupial to be conceived and born by Al. The significance of Al to the conservation biology of the Koala is discussed.