Republic of Poland

Serval – the wild cat examined at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

June 5, 2018

- This research is carried out as a part of cooperation with the Borysew zoo. We examine wild cats’ anatomy, development, monitor their health and learn about the secrets of their central nervous system – explains doctor hab. Marcin Wrzosek, a neurologist who has already used magnetic resonance to examine animals like white lions, penguins and a lemur. – This is one of the few occasions to examine a cat with such an advanced diagnostic technique. No one in the world performs resonance on servals and for this reason there are no scientific studies which could explain to us what the brain and spinal chord of such a cat look like and how they function – says the expert from the WUELS Faculty of Veterinary Science.

fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

As it turns out, though servals are in danger of extinction in the wild, they are more and more often domesticated. This wild cat, unlike, for example, lynxes, may become gentle-natured when brought up at home. The male which came to WUELS lives in Borysew with its partner and they had kittens a few days ago. Łukasz Rawicki, the vet taking care of those animals, who accompanied our serval on its Wrocław trip, explains that the mother is guarding her kittens closely, which why it is not certain how many have actually been born (the doctor points out that proximity of humans could stress the mother to such an extent, that she could hurt her babies and for this reason nobody is approaching the family for the time being).

As all wild cats are on the red list of endangered species, Professor Wojciech Niżański from the Department of Reproduction collected the serval’s semen for the gamete bank. – These animals are threatened by humans and our civilization, therefore, it is a duty of vets and scientists to save these species. At the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Sciences we have, for a few years, had a gamete bank of wild cats. While conducting research or even just clipping their claws, we obtain the cats’ semen and egg cells with the pharmacological method and then we freeze it in liquid nitrogen and preserve for up to hundreds of years. Next we are able to carry out the in vitro procedure and pregnancy. At present, there are only a few teams in the world doing this – explains Professor Niżański who has already gathered in the bank gametes from 15 species of wild cats, obtained many embryos and is planning, before the end of the year, to perform the first embryo transfer and pregnancy.

fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

Professor Niżański has also gathered genetic material for somatic cloning, which will be necessary when only infertile individuals are left in the population. – In such a case the only chance for species survival is cloning with the use of even a domestic cat’s egg cell. We have already made such an attempt and we know that we are able to do it and we are ready if need be. Before man learnt biotechniques, some species – such as, for example, aurochs, had become extinct.