February 10, 2013

Klondike And The Red Wolves

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY recently made a happy announcement — the birth of a puppy from a frozen embryo. Named Klondike, the beagle-labrador mix is the first in the western hemisphere to be born from such an embryo, offering hope to other endangered canines, such as the Red Wolf.

Neither beagles nor labradors are endangered, of course, but scientists say the methods used to bring Klondike into this world can be used to preserve other at-risk animals.

Klondike was actually born nine months ago, though Cornell is only today announcing his birth. One can only assume the university wanted to watch Klondike for several months in order to ensure that he grew up normally, fully developed without any abnormalities. According to Jennifer Viegas, writing for, Klondike is all puppy; “Extremely playful, energetic and curious.”

The new frozen embryo technique was conducted by researchers at Cornell’s Baker Institute for Animal Health and at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. These teams used a process called “Cryopreservation,” a method in which materials, such as fertilized eggs, are frozen and thereby preserved. With this genetic material intact, scientists of the future may be able to protect endangered species by repopulating them and introducing them back into the wild.

As dogs are only able to give birth once or twice a year, Alex Baker, Director of Cornell’s campus-wide Center for Wildlife Conservation has said it is important to be able to freeze these embryos for later use.

“Reproduction in dogs is remarkably different than in other mammals,” said Travis in a statement.

“We’re working to understand these differences so we can tackle issues ranging from developing contraceptives to preserving the genetic diversity of endangered animals through assisted reproduction.”

Klondike began as a frozen embryo collected from his beagle mother, who was artificially inseminated. The resulting embryos from this fertilization were collected and frozen in accordance to cryopreservation techniques. Once another beagle, his surrogate mother, was ready to receive the embryos, the Cornell researchers implanted Klondike’s embryo and let nature take its course.

Today, the result is a 9-month old, healthy beagle-labrador mix.

The Red Wolf in particular has been targeted to receive the benefit of this new reproductive technique.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Red Wolf (or Canis rufus) is one of the world’s most endangered canids.

Though these wolves once roamed freely though out the south central United States, hunters and land development have taken away the wolves’ home. The Red Wolf was labeled as endangered in 1967, prompting the USFWS to begin working to conserve the species. According to current estimates, there are more than 100 Red Wolves roaming freely in North Carolina, as well as 200 other Red Wolves in captive breeding centers across America.

The USFWS tracks these Red Wolves via radio transmitters. The wolves are captured and then given a collar with these transmitters, then released back into the wild. Thanks to these tools, biologists are able to track the behaviors and movements of these Red Wolves and, hopefully, find new and better ways to preserve them.

Image Credit: Stayer / Shutterstock

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