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November 13, 2014
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In the Community

World’s first IVF Rhino Embryo Produced at Taronga Western Plains Zoo

The Northern White Rhinoceros is critically endangered. Taronga Western Plains Zoo staff has been working with reproductive biologist experts from Berlin’s Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research over the last four years to develop assisted reproductive techniques for non-reproductive female Black Rhinos. Using embryo transfer media and filters donated by Bioniche Animal Health (A/Asia) Pty. Ltd., two females were superovulated, eggs collected, matured in vitro and fertilized. The primary objective of this research is to develop in vitro embryo production technology in the rhinoceros to propagate the genetics of captive black rhino females which are unable to carry young of their own and those which die before they reach their reproductive potential by rescuing their eggs post-mortem.

This year’s endeavour was a collaborative effort by Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Life Science, maintenance, veterinary and reproductive staff, the Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, the Turretfield Research Centre, South Australia, Seven Creeks Equine Veterinary Clinic, Victoria, and the University of Melbourne’s Zoology Department. The first significant step in this research was achieved in 2006 with the world’s first collection of eggs from a live rhino. This year the incredible teamwork of this group of researchers resulted in the creation of the world’s first rhino embryo. These procedures involve specially designed equipment and sophisticated techniques catered to the rhino’s unique anatomy and physiology.

Taronga Western Plains Zoo holds one of the largest captive black rhino populations in the world with current holdings of 11 animals. The two females which were chosen for the oocyte (egg) pick up (OPU) procedure this year are both unable to produce offspring naturally. After maturation in vitro, an egg collected from a female named “Rocket” was fertilized with sperm collected from a black rhino male named "Kwanzaa", resulting in the development of an embryo, affectionately nicknamed "Kwocket".

The primary focus of this year’s research was to gain more information regarding the stimulation protocol and the dynamics of in vitro maturation and development. Because sufficient eggs were collected, in vitro fertilization was attempted as well and resulted in the creation of an embryo. This achievement is the next step in developing the technology to produce offspring through in vitro assisted reproductive technology to ensure the propagation of valuable genetics in this species.

We still have a long way to go before we develop the additional technology needed to produce a calf on the ground; but with the skills and dedication of researchers and staff involved, we feel confidentit is only a matter of time.

Bioniche Hospice Quinte Centre in Belleville, Ontario, Canada

On May 4, 2009, Bioniche and Hospice Quinte, an incorporated, non-profit, charitable organization with a mandate to assist terminally ill patients and their caregivers, announced that they have entered into a partnership to establish the "Bioniche Hospice Quinte Centre" in Belleville, Ontario. This Centre will be utilized for administrative and day programs, including the training of Hospice Quinte volunteers.

The new Centre has been established in a property owned by Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., adjacent to its corporate headquarters on Dundas Street East in Belleville. The property is being leased to Hospice Quinte, and has undergone renovations funded by community donations.

"Bioniche is proud to make a contribution to such a worthwhile endeavour," said Graeme McRae, Chairman, President & CEO of Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. "Bioniche and Hospice Quinte espouse similar corporate visions and values. Where our vision revolves around finding innovative ways to improve the quality of life, Hospice Quinte has a goal of retaining quality of life as it nears an end."

Hospice Quinte Chair Richard Floyd added, "Hospice Quinte is grateful to Bioniche for its contribution, and is equally grateful to the community at large for the ongoing donations that make projects like this possible. We look forward to providing this accessible and conveniently located space to meet the needs of our patients and volunteers, as well as our administrative and training programs, in the years to come."

The May 4th announcement took place at the new home of the Bioniche Hospice Quinte Centre: 225 Dundas Street East. Hospice Quinte staff and volunteers moved in on July 24, 2009.

About Hospice Quinte

Hospice Quinte is a registered, non-profit, charitable organization that assists terminally ill patients and their caregivers by giving them support and companionship during the patients' final stages of life. The service covers the cities of Belleville and Quinte West, as well as the broader region of south Hastings County. Support may be provided in a patient's home or in a health care facility, as required. Trained, experienced and compassionate volunteers provide care, free of charge.

Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) Help Endangered Species Survival

As an island continent, Australia is unique in its biodiversity. Current estimations suggest Australia is home to more than one million plants and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on the planet. There are approximately 110 Australian animal species classified as endangered, meaning they are likely to become extinct unless the various threats and pressures affecting them are removed. Another 180 species are considered vulnerable and are likely to become endangered within the next 25 years if present trends continue.

Although there are no simple solutions, the use of assisted reproductive technologies to help save some of the most critically endangered species in Australia is increasing. To help veterinary science students at the University of Sydney in the development of specialized skills in artificial insemination, embryo transfer, and related technologies, Bioniche Animal Health A/Asia Pty., based in Armidale, New South Wales has contributed financially to the faculty’s continued ability to deliver the Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) course.

One such ART initiative being financially supported by Bioniche Animal Health is taking place at the Wombat Research Centre in Central Queensland where 113 Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombats, Queensland’s most endangered mammal, continue to survive in nearby Epping Forest National Park. Research staff are using traditional cattle breeding methods of superovulation and embryo transfer to increase the number of wombat offspring from the 25 breeding-age females.

Hormonal changes associated with mating, ovulation, and fertilization are poorly understood in Australian marsupials, including the Stripe-Faced Dunnart, a polyovular dasyurid considered vulnerable. Also using combinations of reproductive hormones supplied by Bioniche, researchers at the University of New England in Armidale have successfully induced mating and ovulation in otherwise non-reproductive females of this species.

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Tamara Keeley at work with the Taronga Western Plains Zoo.


Rocket's embryo.


"Bioniche and Hospice Quinte officials in front of the future home of the "Bioniche and Hospice Quinte Centre"




































The Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombats, Queensland's most endangered mammal.

The Stripe-Faced Dunnart

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