Minnesota's testicles reactivated
Meet Minnesota, the cute horsey pictured above. Part of a rare breed of Chinese-Mongolian horses known as a Przewalski's, Minnesota's wild ancestors were declared extinct in 1970. There are still some 1,500 Przewalski’s in captivity, and efforts are underway to reintroduce the species to its native habitat. As such, and because the entire species as it is currently constituted derives from a group of only 14 horses, scientists are desperate for as much genetic diversity as possible. Minnesota, who resides at the National Zoo in D.C., was recently determined to be the seventh most valuable Prezewalski's, genetically speaking, in the world.
Which is why it was a total bummer that in 1999 some retrograde zoologist at Minnesota's previous home, the Minnesota Zoo, took it upon himself to vasectomize our hero. The idea being so Minnesota could be housed with his filly and mare friends without any risk of crisis pregnancies.
Which brings us to our story: Last fall, a team led by Dr. Sherman Silber, a pioneering surgeon in the field of reverse vasectomies on humans, spent an hour operating on Minnesota. Six months hence, the semen samples were in: Minnesota was no longer firing blanks. It was the first successful reverse vasectomy of a horse, as well as the first such procedure performed on an endangered species, since at least Stonehenge.
Quoting from the National Zoo's proud press release:
National Zoo scientists hope to pair Minnesota with a suitable female later in the coming months... Currently, National Zoo scientists are working in remote areas of China using radio collars and Geographic Information System technology to map the movements of Przewalski’s horses reintroduced by Chinese colleagues into their former habitat.
Let's hear it for Minnesota!