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Meeting chimpanzees’ visual and tactile mating preferences for semen collection
There are roughly 1,400 male chimpanzees in captivity throughout the world that can be split into two distinct categories: fertile and vasectomized chimps. Reproducing chimps are capable of participating in natural and artificial insemination in breeding and species survival programs. Meanwhile, vasectomized chimps are regularly reexamined under anesthesia to prevent unwanted births in sanctuaries who have limited spatial and financial resources. In both cases, there is a need for an effective semen collection device.
The commercially available devices used to address this demand include rectal electro-stimulation probes and artificial vaginas. Unfortunately, these methods have poor chimp compliance and fail to sufficiently arouse males, which can lead to poor sperm counts even in fertile chimps. These shortcomings render the semen unusable for artificial insemination and unreliable vasectomy tests.
We designed a semen collection device that mimics the look and feel of a female chimp’s vagina. Once trained, the chimps will approach the caretaker, insert their penis into the lumen and thrust until ejaculation. Engineering analysis and modeling has shown that our device will preserve the semen quality and quantity while simple to use and lightweight. Further, initial testing at the Project Chimps sanctuary has suggested a drastic improvement in chimpanzee excitement upon use. Chimpanzees have licked, smelled, touched, and presented their penis without special training. In fact, two teenagers even fought over use of the prototype.
Our device’s standalone ability to arouse chimpanzees naturally and collect ample semen enable its use in zoos, where parallel artificial insemination programs aim to save the species from extinction.