After years of work, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan are celebrating the successful birth of four wood bison calves, a record-breaking achievement.

The calves were born through in-vitro fertilization, a first for bison. Adding to the excitement, one of the four was born of a frozen embryo originally harvested in 2012.

“The babies look great,” said Dr. Gregg Adams, a professor and reproductive specialist at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), in a release. “They’re keeping up with mom, and I’m really happy about it.”

World’s first IVF bison calves – Western College of Veterinary Medicine from WCVMToday on Vimeo.

Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae) are considered to be the Northern subspecies of the American bison, and are the largest land mammals in North America. Under the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) wood bison are listed in the status category of “Special Concern”.
Less than five percent of the original wood bison population exists in the wild today, and Adams hopes work like this will help the wood bison population, which is threatened by diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis, not to mention habitat loss. By using reproduction techniques like in-vitro fertilization, it allows researchers to disinfect both the egg and sperm of the bison, creating embryos free of these diseases.

“It is tremendously gratifying to see this. I’m excited. I’m hoping all the different interest groups will see this as a real possibility, a solution to the problem.”

Adams hopes this research will help conserve the species and preserve genetic diversity.

The research was done with the help of PhD students, a post-doctoral fellow and researchers from the University of Calgary.

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