The first Cape buffalo calf to be conceived through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is now a full three months old and in great health.
“This breakthrough is of great significance, as it is the first of its kind in the world and holds great promise for the continued survival of endangered species,” managing director of Embryo Plus Morne de la Rey said when announcing the calf birth.
Pumelelo, the calf, was born on June 28.
In a process similar to ovum recovery in women undergoing IVF, the oocytes of a buffalo cow were collected by a technique called ovum pick-up, which took place with the cow under full anaesthesia.
A needle was guided trans-vaginally and ova (eggs) were aspirated from the ovaries of the cow using ultrasound to visualise the process.
De la Rey said the eggs were matured and fertilised in vitro with frozen-thawed Cape buffalo semen, then grown in a laboratory incubator in a process known as in vitro production (IVP). After seven days of growth, the embryo was transferred into a surrogate buffalo cow, carrying the foetus to term for 11 months.
The assisted reproductive technology used in the production of this calf was developed by Embryo Plus from Brits in the Northwest Province.
The Embryo Plus team was led by De la Rey and “is still developing techniques that can be used to save critically endangered wildlife species”.
“The use of Assisted Reproductive Techniques in wildlife management, although still in its infancy, is becoming more of a reality,” De la Rey said. “This success is important for the prospective breeding of endangered.”
DNA samples taken from the calf confirmed the parentage of the cow and bull used in the process.