A jumbo embryo: Meet the first baby elephant created with frozen sperm


Operation Frozen Dumbo: Schoenbrunn zoo director Dagmar Schratter shows off the ultrasound

Scientists in Austria are celebrating after successfully impregnating an elephant with frozen sperm for the first time.
Stunning ultrasound images unveiled at Viernna's Schoenbrunn Zoo yesterday show a perfectly-formed five-month-old elephant embryo measuring just 10 centimetres long.
The artificial insemination was carried out on Tonga, a 26-year-old African female.
But staff have a long wait to meet the tiny creature in person - he, or she isn't due to be born for another year.

Up close: The scan shows already-developed head, legs and trunk

Elephants have a gestation period of 630 days, almost twice as long as humans - meaning Tonga isn't due to give birth until August 2013.
Elephants have been impregnated with fresh or refrigerated sperm in the past in an effort to protect endangered species, but frozen sperm can be transported further, and allows the female elephant to be inseminated at her most fertile time.
The sperm was taken from a sedated wild elephant in South Africa using electroejaculation in the project known internally as 'Operation Frozen Dumbo,' a zoo spokeswoman said.
It took eight months to clear customs on its way to France due to lack of an established procedure for such wares.

Proud mum: Tonga, a 26-year-old female African elephant stands in her enclosure at Schoenbrunn zoo

The project was a joint effort of Schoenbrunn Zoo, Berlin's Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, France's Beauval Zoo and Pittsburgh Zoo in the United States.
Both African and Asian species of elephant are endangered, especially the Asian, mainly due to poaching for meat and ivory tusks and destruction of their habitats.
Around 2,000 elephants live in zoos, and a further 15,000 Asian elephants are estimated to be kept privately, employed in the timber industry or living in temples.
Schoenbrunn Zoo Director Dagmar Schratter said: 'Since the survival of elephants in their natural habitat is under threat, zoos around the world are striving to preserve them.
'Artificial insemination with the semen of a wild bull elephant is a chance to enrich the gene pool to further species conservation,' she said, adding that there were five female elephants living in zoos to every one male.

source: dailymail