[monkeywire] Zoos put chimps on birth control to keep breeds pure
carrie at stayfreemagazine.org
Fri Aug 9 18:00:27 EDT 2002
Asahi News Service
August 1, 2002 Thursday
ZOOS PUT CHIMPS ON BIRTH CONTROL TO KEEP BREEDS PURE
Zoos are putting chimpanzees on the pill to stop them from giving
birth to mixed breed chimpanzees.
Chimpanzees are classified into four subspecies according to their
habitats-East African, West African, Central African and Nigerian.
They are not migratory animals and do not interbreed under natural
circumstances. But until recently, Japanese zoos and research
facilities have let their chimps breed randomly, unaware of what
subspecies their chimpanzees belong to. When they tried to obtain
chimps from their counterparts in Western nations, they were turned
down for that reason. Western facilities began distinguishing
chimpanzee subspecies about a decade ago and refuse to do business
with zoos and research centers that do not follow suit.
To remedy the situation, a group of experts including Koichiro
Yoshihara, a chimpanzee breeder at Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo and
Kenichi Shinoda, an associate professor of physical anthropology at
Saga Medical School, examined the DNA of chimpanzees at 56 facilities
A total sample of 373 chimpanzees consisted of 243 West African, four
Central African, 13 East African chimpanzees and 65 that were not
clearly identified. The rest-48 chimpanzees-were crossbreeds,
including some that were mixtures of three subspecies.
While some researchers say crossbreeding is not harmful unless the
animals return to the wild, Yoshihara disagrees.
"We need to control the population of crossbreeds, and at the same
time prevent incest from occurring. But that would reduce the chances
of acceptable mating, which may cause the steadily increasing
chimpanzee population in Japan to decline drastically," he said.
The experts recommended that each zoo counter crossbreeding by
keeping only one subspecies and devising its breeding plan.
Birth-control was recommended for crossbred chimps, as well as
separate habitats for each subspecies to prevent interbreeding.
At Tama Zoological Garden, seven out of the zoo's 18 chimpanzees are
mixed-breed. Nine are West African and two are Central African.
Kenta, an alpha male chimpanzee that came from another zoo, turned
out to be a mix between Central and East African. He already
underwent a vasectomy, according to a zoo official.
Four female chimps, including Peko, 40, and her daughter Koko, 17,
have also been identified as crossbreeds, who are now on
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