Low egg fertility and hatchability is a common problem in captive populations of rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome). These conditions make sustaining a captive population challenging. A method for collecting and evaluating semen from rockhopper penguins was developed to assist in the evaluation of low egg fertility found in one captive population. Six adult male rockhopper penguins were conditioned to allow semen collection once a week from the start of breeding season until ejaculates no longer contained sperm. A total of 59 ejaculates was collected between 17 September and 31 December 2004. Forty-five of these samples were evaluated for volume, pH, sperm concentration, and sperm quality (motility, viability, and morphology). There was a large variation between individuals and between collections for each individual. The mean motility was 34.5% (±22%). Mean volume of ejaculate was 0.23 ml (±.31 ml). Mean concentration was 16.9 × 106 sperm/ml (±48.7 × 106 sperm/ml). Mean number of sperm per collection was 1.7 × 106 (±4.2 × 106). Mean percentage of living sperm was 82.9% (±18.1%). Mean percentage of sperm with normal morphology was 82.1% (±18.8%). Mean pH was 6.47 (±0.49). During this season, only one of these males paired with a female. The pair produced one fertile egg, but the embryo died early in incubation. Male rockhopper penguins had low sperm concentration and low motility indicating that low male fertility may be contributing to the poor egg fertility rate. This work represents the first step in an ongoing study to improve captive breeding of rockhopper penguins.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1