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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Golden eagle 'cryo-chick' hatches
Crystal the Golden Eagle chick
The technique allows scientists to wait for the best breeding conditions
Scientists in Scotland have become the first in the world to use frozen sperm to breed a golden eagle.

The three-week-old chick has been named Crystal by researchers at the University of Abertay in Dundee.

The move could help to safeguard some of the world's most endangered birds of prey, according to the team.

Frozen sperm can be kept in perpetuity to wait for optimum breeding conditions and raises the prospect of "trans-national" programmes for rare species.

Dr Graham Wishart, biologist and bird reproduction expert, said: "There are all sorts of obstacles to breeding raptors in captivity through natural methods.

"The birds may not be ready to breed at the same time and in the case of endangered species, it might be difficult to match up a breeding pair if the few remaining individuals are scattered across continents."

I hope our work with these birds... will raise the issue of conservation in general with a far greater audience
Andrew Knowles-Brown
The foundations for the breeding attempt were laid in 2001 when Dr Wishart and his colleague, Andrew Knowles-Brown, successfully produced the world's first eagle using cryo-preserved sperm.

Thor, a cross between a golden and steppe eagle, was bred using a system where the sperm is frozen gradually.

Dr Wishart described the technique of freezing sperm as "still relatively new" and stressed that it should not be seen as a cure for the problems facing endangered species.

National icons

Mr Knowles-Brown, who is also chairman of the Scottish Hawking Club, said raptors were often seen as "emblems", such as the bald eagle, the national icon of the United States.

"I hope our work with these birds, especially those at risk of extinction in the wild, will raise the issue of conservation in general with a far greater audience," he added.

Mr Knowles-Brown succeeded last month in breeding white-tailed sea eagles for the first time in captivity in the UK.

They were bred by natural mating and have been christened Diamond and Pearl.

White-tailed sea eagles became extinct in the UK early last century but have now been reintroduced in the west of Scotland.

The BBC's Andy Cassell
"For those behind the project it was a triumph"

Experts fear for eagles' survival
11 Sep 02  |  England
'Disastrous' year for golden eagles
27 Dec 00  |  Scotland
Bird's eye view
03 May 00  |  Features

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