LEO Zoological Conservation Center, Veterinarians, and Dr. Mark Leondires Accomplish a Milestone Victory for Wildlife Conservation

orangutan assisted reproductionGREENWICH, CT – After decades of trial and error by major universities and zoological institutions, a small nonprofit conservation center, LEO Zoological Conservation Center, has successfully developed a program using assisted reproduction to aid in the plight to save wild orangutans. On May 20, 2014, Maggie, a 22-year-old orangutan at LEO Zoological Conservation Center, had a baby male orangutan; both mother and baby are healthy and doing well.

This breakthrough completes the first step of LEO Zoological Conservation Center’s Wild Cycling Program, which began two years ago. Wild cycling, first coined by LEO Zoological Conservation Center’s Founder and Director Marcella Leone, aims for the eventual recycling of genes in and out of zoological institutions and wild populations in order to expand genetic diversity.

LEO Zoological Conservation Center invited Dr. Mark Leondires of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT), a leader in the fertility field and treatment of infertility in humans, to aid in this Wild Cycling Program. Dr. Leondires, LEO Zoological Conservation Center veterinarians and staff monitored female orangutans to track ovulation and menstruation cycles to determine the least invasive treatment plan with the best chance of success while staff developed a training and conditioning standard, based on their natural habits. Together, they performed natural cycle intrauterine insemination (IUI) with sperm collected from a male orangutan. This single round of treatment successfully resulted in pregnancy.


This scientific advancement comes at a critical time as Earth’s wild forests are being removed 10 times faster than any possible rate of re-growth and a species of plant or animals goes extinct every 20 minutes. During the past 60 years, the orangutan population has decreased by 50 percent as tropical forests are harvested for palm oil, which is used in many foods and soap products. Many experts estimate that orangutans will be extinct in their natural habitat in the next 25 years.


“We are proud to contribute to the continued existence of this gentle, intelligent species through the success of our ongoing Wild Cycling Program,” says Leone.  “The science here could redefine the ways conservationists and scientists approach wildlife preservation in the future.”


Both Maggie and baby are doing very well after a short labor in her favorite yellow wheelbarrow that she continues to make sleeping nests in every night. Maggie’s baby has been a precious addition who is not only doted on by his mother but by the other five orangutans at the center. As the Wild Cycling Program continues to progress, a second pregnant, soon-to-be first time orangutan mother will be spending her days alongside Maggie and her new baby in order to learn the necessary parenting skills. 


LEO ZOOLOGICAL CONSERVATION CENTER needs help naming the new baby. Visit www.LEOzoo.org/namethebaby to submit your suggestion. We are accepting recommendations until 12:00pm EST on June 30, 2014.


About LEO Zoological Conservation Center

LEO Zoological Conservation Center is a nonprofit, low impact, accredited off-site breeding facility, in Greenwich, Connecticut, for rare and endangered animals with a focus on breeding species at risk. Education and conservation based research are the cornerstones of the center’s efforts. Low impact means that we provide large spaces and limit stress and exposure to human crowds, creating the best environment for breeding, in order to provide animals to public zoos and for future reintroduction programs into the wild. Although five years young, LEO Zoological Conservation Center is no stranger to unique births; the facility has welcomed endangered Rothschild giraffes, Asian Fishing Cats, White Handed Gibbons, Brazilin Tapirs and Eastern Mountain Bongos among many others.

For more information visit http://www.LEOzoo.org or find us on Facebook.


LEO Zoological Conservation Center’s Wild Cycling Program creates a brand new and sustainable concept recycling genes expanding genetic diversity.  This program is a four pronged approach: natural breeding, fresh semen IUI, extended semen IUI, and frozen semen ICSY.


Specifically in the case of the endangered orangutan, the Wild Cycling Program could:

  • Avoid costly transfers of animals between zoological institutions, which disrupts social groups and creates stress and trauma related health issues. This will contribute to the work that zoos are doing by banking genetic material and truly allowing them to become genetic arks of the future. 
  • Aid the wild population that has decreased by over 50% in the last 60 years primarily due to the palm oil trade, as well as other major threats.  As a result, the now isolated communities of orangutans will inevitably suffer from a decline of genetic diversity and negative effects of inbreeding. Many experts estimate that orangutans will be extinct in their natural habitat in the next 25 years


About Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT)

Dr. Mark Leondires is a partner with RMACT, which specializes in the treatment of infertility, including assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and Comprehensive Chromosomal Screening (SelectCCS). RMACT, Fairfield County’s largest fertility clinic and egg donation center, is one of 11 leading In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) centers nationwide chosen by In Vitro Sciences to participate in its Centers of Excellence program. RMACT has offices in Norwalk, Danbury, Stamford and Trumbull, and an affiliate New York fertility clinics serving Putnam and Dutchess counties. RMACT also offers infertility treatment financing and support services, such as nutrition counseling, massage therapy, psychological counseling, acupuncture and yoga, through RMACT’s Integrated Fertility and Wellness Center.


The RMACT team includes lead physicians Drs. Mark P. Leondires, Spencer S. Richlin and Joshua M. Hurwitz, as well as fertility specialists Drs. Cynthia M. Murdock and Shaun C. Williams. All physicians are Board-Certified Reproductive Endocrinologists and are members of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and the Fairfield County and Connecticut Medical Societies. Each has received numerous awards, and all five are Castle Connolly "Top Doctors." RMACT’s IVF laboratory is accredited by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), and CLIA; other accreditations include the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care (AAAHC) and the American Institute for Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM). For more information visit http://www.RMACT.com or find us on Facebook.

Topics: assisted reproduction

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