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World's 1st artificially conceived dolphins born in H.K.

HONG KONG, June 28 Kyodo

The world's first artificially conceived dolphins have been born in Hong Kong's Ocean Park, scientists here said Thursday.

The two bottlenose calves, one female and one male and yet to be named, were born last month of separate mothers at the marine attraction.

The breakthrough came after years of joint efforts among experts at Ocean Park, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and SeaWorld Adventure Parks in the United States.

''These successful births signify exciting new possibilities in maintaining and enhancing the genetic diversity of bottlenose dolphin collections worldwide,'' said Suzanne Gendron, Ocean Park's zoological operations and education director.

Little is known about dolphin reproduction and it remains difficult to diagnose pregnancy or to ensure that healthy calves are born, making the development of successful artificial insemination important, the scientists said.

Using ultrasound, the researchers succeeded in accurately predicting ovulation in dolphins for the first time.

They inserted semen from male bottlenose dolphin Molly into four females between October 1999 and April last year.

But only two, Ada and Gina, became pregnant, giving birth to two healthy calves on May 14 and May 25 respectively, they said.

Fiona Brook, an associate professor at Polytechnic University, said artificial insemination in dolphins may help reduce the need to take more dolphins from the wild as the techniques can maximize the use of the captive dolphins' gene pool.

''In the future, it may be used to introduce new genes into otherwise isolated groups of animals or endangered species,'' said Brook, who has been involved in researching controlled natural breeding for 10 years.

The experts in Hong Kong said they are now studying the best methods of freezing and storing dolphin semen.

If successful, that will allow semen to be kept and transported throughout the world, which, in turn, will help introduce new genes, enhancing dolphins' genetic health and maintaining their populations, the scientists said.
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Publication:Japan Science Scan
Date:Jul 2, 2001
Words:314
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