Aspects of the reproduction of male and female African penguins (Spheniscus demersus) with special reference to sperm biology and cryopreservation
Mafunda, Patrick Siyambulela
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In the marine environment, penguins have been described as curators and serve a critical role in ecological balance. The African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) has undergone a rapid population decline, mainly due to disturbances in their natural habitat. The African penguin was up-listed from vulnerable to endangered on the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species in 2010 and thus urgent conservation action is required. Integral to long-term conservation action of any species is a basic knowledge of its reproductive biology, which is currently lacking for African penguins. The main aim of this investigation was to evaluate techniques for the collection of semen in African penguin and to determine sperm quality in order to cryopreserve sperm for in vitro fertilization (IVF) purposes of captive and wild populations. Semen was collected once a week during two breeding seasons from two captive African penguins. Ejaculates (n=51) were obtained over two breeding seasons (Jan-Feb and Jun-Oct) and evaluated for semen volume, sperm concentration, sperm vitality, sperm motility and sperm morphology. In addition twelve (six females and six males, n=4 were breeding pairs) captive African penguins were monitored for hormone (estradiol, testosterone, progesterone) levels prior to and after the egg-laying period.