MEXICO CITY, July 31 (Xinhua) -- In a laboratory in Mexico City's Chapultepec Zoo, veterinaries have been working to extract and preserve "seeds" from 20 species of endangered animals, according to an official.
In the reproduction laboratory, gametes from national protected species such as the Mexican wolf, the California condor, the volcano rabbit, the Mexican salamander and the jaguar are being studied and preserved, Fernando Cortes Villavicencio, technical and research director at the General Directorate for Zoos and Wildlife in Mexico City, told Xinhua on Saturday.
The scientists are also working with specimens of exotic animals from other latitudes that live in zoos, like the snow leopard or some primates, said Cortes Villavicencio.
"We have at least preserved 20 different species which are included in the at-risk category in the germplasm bank," said the official.
In the laboratory, the experts obtain semen from the male and oocyte from the female and evaluate the best techniques so that their conservation is long-lasting and they are freezing the germplasms.
"At some point in the future this (the germplasm bank) will surely be used if it is necessary to save a species in danger of extinction," said Cortes Villavicencio, who is a veterinary.
The official emphasized that the program attempts to conserve endangered species, a task which, just like others, was tarnished due to the death of a silverback gorilla early this month.
Bantu, who was born in Chapultepec in 1991 and the only male of his species in Mexico, suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest after he was sedated before he could be transported to a zoo in Guadalajara, capital of the western state of Jalisco, to mate with two females.
Since his death on July 6 the zoo's authorities have faced questioning from animal protection organizations and local opposition parliamentarians, some of whom have pushed for discussions within the city's legislative assembly to close the zoo.
Cortes Villavicencio said the case has caused an erroneous perception of how the zoo operates. He also added that the proposal needs to be thought about "twice" because Chapultepec does so much more than just show 1,208 kinds of animals to 5 million children and adults annually.
The zoo has become a research center and the preservation program is the proof, as it has contributed to repopulating the woods in northern Mexico with the Mexican wolf after the species was completely eradicated in the wild four decades ago, according to Cortes Villavicencio.
"The first (new wild) Mexican wolves were set free in Mexico in 2011. They have blood from the same species that live in the city's zoos," he added.
Recently, they have also transported three California condor chicks that were born and raised in Chapultepec's laboratory to a mountain range in northwest Mexico. Once the rehabilitation process is finished, the birds will be set free, Cortes Villavicencio added.
The chicks of the species, declared extinct in 1987, were the first to be born in captivity in Mexico. "If I am not mistaken, the zoos in Mexico City are the only ones to have a reproduction laboratory in Mexico," he said.
Even Bantu's move to Guadalajara came within the conservation tasks of the species in Mexico, where the general wildlife regulation prohibits new primates from entering the country.
"On many occasions when you are handling wild animals, these types of situations are probable and unfortunately on this occasion it happened," said Villavicencio, who explained that they are still awaiting the results of the analysis in order to to rule out improper handling.
The director added that Chapultepec is also a training center for Mexican and foreign students of veterinary medicine and many of them get jobs in other zoos or become wildlife researchers.
"Instead, I believe that they (those in favor of closing Chapultepec zoo) should get to know the reality from within the zoo, the aims and the love that people who work there have for wildlife," Cortes Villavicencio said.
"We are genuinely very interested in continuing our work and making sure that they (the citizens) believe and know that we are doing everything out of love. What we most enjoy doing is working with wild animals," Cortes Villavicencio noted.