The Red River Zoo is an award winning zoo, notably for its conservation work with endangered species from Northern Asia and Europe. The Fargo, North Dakota zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and primarily exhibits species from regions of the world that mimic Fargo’s climate. One species the Red River Zoo is known for is the Pallas’ Cat- a critically endangered species which is very difficult to raise in captivity. To increase the chance of survival for this species, the Red River Zoo has partnered the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo which is working to develop effective artificial insemination procedures for Pallas’ Cats.

Dr. Bill Swanson DVM, PhD, Director of Animal Research for the Center, will be in Fargo on Thursday and Friday (Feb. 26 and Feb. 27) to work with the Red River Zoo to perfect techniques of artificial insemination in this species.

The future for the continued survival of the Pallas’ Cat species does not look good at this time. This procedure is part of a larger research project whose goal is to perfect the AI process in Pallas’ Cats using frozen semen as an aid to maintain the genetic diversity of the captive Pallas’ Cat population without the need to ship the cats themselves between zoos around the world.

The Red River Zoo will also be working with Globe University on this project. The Associate in Applied Science in veterinary technology program at the Globe University-Moorhead campus integrates career-focused education with applied learning to expose students to real-world working environments. Globe University’s relationship with the Red River Zoo has given students additional hands-on educational opportunities, such as exposure to working with exotic animals, and now participation in the Pallas’s Cat insemination procedure.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide this opportunity for our veterinary technician students,” says Globe University’s resident veterinarian, Dr. Sara Lyons. “It is unique experiences like this that set us apart from other schools. We are so grateful for the partnership with the Red River Zoo. It’s wonderful to have our students working with such prestigious veterinarians.”

Pallas’ Cats are native to Tibet, Mongolia, Pakistan, and parts of Western China. Pallas’ Cats live in the cold and arid environments of rocky steppes at elevations up to about 16,000 feet. They have the longest and most dense fur of any cat, and have been over hunted for their fur. Pallas’ Cats diet consists of birds and small mammals, primarily the pika. The pika has been routinely poisoned leading to a decline in the food source for the Pallas’ Cat.

Pallas’s Cats have the highest percentage (45%) of 30-day mortality of any small cat species. Survival rates are low due to infections, which are attributed to an underdeveloped immune system. In their natural high-altitude habitat, they would normally not be exposed to viruses causing infection.

The Red River Zoo is committed to wildlife conservation and education and is dedicated to the preservation of the Pallas’ Cat and other cold climate species.