Semen collection and cryopreservation . Due to growing concern over reproductive failure in polar bears nationwide, CREW scientists are receiving requests from other zoological institutions to perform assisted reproductive procedures, such as artificial insemination (AI). A polar bear sperm bank is vital in supporting AI endeavors; however, the traditional method of semen collection from wildlife, electro-ejaculation, has been relatively unsuccessful in polar bears. Our compelling preliminary research has evaluated the use of a novel, minimally-invasive method of semen collection in this species. Although the mechanism is not well understood, there are reports of certain anesthetic drugs inducing ejaculation or causing semen to pool in the urethra in other species. One drug, medetomidine, seems to have this effect and also is already commonly used to anesthetize polar bears in zoos. To retrieve the sperm, a catheter is threaded into the urethra, a syringe is attached to the end of the catheter, and the catheter containing the sperm is slowly withdrawn. The procedure can be performed opportunistically at the time of a regularly scheduled physical examination and takes less than 5 minutes, so it doesn’t require a lengthy extension of anesthesia time. This new approach has resulted in an impressive 91% success rate and, for the first time, the creation of a polar bear sperm bank to store these valuable genetics is possible. A future goal is to perform semen collections on wild bears to preserve their genetics and also to investigate the impact of pollutants on the fertility of wild bears.
Treatment: If a pancreatic or liver tumor is identified and able to be surgically excised, the skin lesions may normalize for an extended period of time, but because these tumors metastasize (spread to other areas of the body) quickly, surgery is not curative. In cases of end stage liver disease, surgery is not possible, and the goal of therapy is to increase quality of life and decrease uncomfortable skin lesions with supportive care and addressing the nutritional abnormalities. Supportive care includes supplementing protein and necessary minerals and enzymes through the diet and oral supplements or by weekly intravenous amino acid infusions that are performed in the hospital on an outpatient basis until improvement in the skin is noted. Unfortunately, despite the supportive care, the disease will progress.