Breeders have used frozen sperm from a wild elephant for the first time to impregnate a female living in captivity, the Schoenbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria, said Tuesday.

Useful for other species

The new freezing method could also be used with other endangered species like rhinoceros and gorillas, said Thomas Hildebrandt, a researcher at Berlin’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, who was involved in the international project.

Previously, elephant breeders could only use a limited number of elephant bulls living in zoos, as semen could not be frozen and had to be used within twelve hours.

In Vienna, Austria, the female African elephant Tonga is now nine months pregnant and is expected to give birth in September 2013. The father lives in South Africa.

Schoenbrunn Zoo chief Dagmar Schratter said that the new method was “a milestone for wildlife conservation and for breeding in zoos.”

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