An improved understanding of reproductive physiology in nondomestic bovids is necessary for the development of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) for use in the conservation of endangered bovids. In this study, epididymal spermatozoa were recovered from blesbok (Damaliscus dorcas phillipsi), African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), and black wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) following organized culls in South Africa. Our objectives were 1) to characterize the quality of epididymal spermatozoa, 2) evaluate the effectiveness of a cryopreservation protocol, and 3) compare postthaw sperm longevity (motility, viability, and acrosomal integrity) and functionality in two culture media with two capacitation reagents (caffeine and heparin). Following recovery, spermatozoa were diluted in EQ extender, slow-cooled, and frozen in the presence of 5% glycerol. Thawed spermatozoa were separated on a Percoll gradient and diluted in fertilization media (SOF for fertilization [SOFfert]; 0.6% BSA, 0.0 mM glucose, 25.0 mM NaHCO3) or modified SOFfert (1.2% BSA, 1.5 mM glucose, 37.0 mM NaHCO3) and either heparin or caffeine, and incubated for 6 h. Spermatozoa from these species maintained an average of 64% initial motility after thawing. Incubation medium and capacitation reagent had species-specific effects on the motility, viability, and acrosomal integrity of spermatozoa, suggesting ART procedures need to be optimized for each species. Springbok spermatozoa were also shown to be competent for in vitro fertilization. Information from this study concerning sperm physiology in blesbok, African buffalo, springbok, and black wildebeest will be useful in the development of ART for the conservation of these and other species of bovids.
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