Threatened penguins bred through artificial insemination at Yamaguchi aquarium


An aquarium in Yamaguchi Prefecture has succeeded in breeding threatened Humboldt penguins using artificial insemination.

It is the second successful artificial insemination of any type of penguin worldwide, and the first for a penguin species under threat of extinction, officials at the Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum Kaikyokan said Tuesday.

The aquarium collected and froze sperm from an 11-year-old male penguin called Genki between 2014 and 2015, and used it to inseminate 8-year-old Happy on around 10 occasions over a nearly two-week period in February.

Happy then laid one egg on Feb. 28 and another on March 3. The eggs hatched on April 7 and 10, resulting in one male and one female chick.

The chicks represent the culmination of roughly four years of work, during which staff estimated when females would ovulate based on weight fluctuations and ultrasound testing, and developed a method to preserve males’ sperm at low temperatures.

Aquarium employee Teppei Kushimoto, 34, who led the project, said he will continue to work toward conserving threatened species.

“I was full of emotion when (Happy) laid the fertilized eggs,” Kushimoto said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species designates Humboldt penguins as “vulnerable,” the lowest of three levels within the threatened category, meaning the species is facing a high risk of extinction.