BATTLE CREEK (AP) — Future generations of Mexican gray wolves will be able to thank Binder Park Zoo for their existence.
In February, the zoo participated in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan program, collecting genetic material from the population of male Mexican wolves to be stored for future breeding.
Researchers from the St. Louis Zoo, where the Battle Creek wolves’ semen will be stored alongside wolf material from other institutions, worked with Binder Park Zoo on the project, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“There’s a moratorium on natural breeding, meaning that they’re pausing that natural breeding process because they just don’t have enough places to put these animals in captive settings,” Binder Park Zoo veterinarian Dr. Judilee Marrow told the Battle Creek Enquirer.
Mexican wolves are on the United States’ endangered species list. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, “the Mexican gray wolf is the smallest, southern-most occurring, rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies of gray wolf in North America.”
There are about 300 captive wolves overall right now, according to the zoo’s Director of Wildlife and Conservation Jennifer Barnett. At Binder, there are three adult males that provided the semen samples.
In the 1990s, the zoo kept timber wolves but replaced them with Mexican wolves to participate in the survival program. In 2002, two wolf parents gave birth to nine cubs. Five of them, females, were sent to other zoos where they could participate in the program. Binder kept the other four, all males.
Barnett said the animals are kept in a pack, just as they would live in the wild.
Mexican wolves live for 10 to 15 years.
Marrow stood on a high walkway above bounding and playing wolves as children and their parents — visitors for an education program — watched nearby. Marrow said it was important to keep the genetic information of “these older boys.”