Echo Mountain Ranch purchased a quantity of The Lion King’s semen from Jeff Bartko in 2013. This semen was collected in 2007, just one year before The Lion King died. The semen was safely transported to and analyzed by the Colorado State University Equine Reproduction Laboratory.
The frozen semen report suggested that although the majority of sperm were morphologically good, the sperm’s progressive motility were poor. Simply put, the sperm is not of high enough quality and quantity to be used in artificial insemination successfully. We elected to use an advanced reproductive procedure called Equine Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). This technique allows conservation and achievement of maximum use of a limited number of spermatozoa.
An oocyte is collected from Babydoll at the appropriate time in her cycle to obtain a pre-ovulatory follicle. The harvested oocyte is placed in culture medium to mature in vitro. A piece of a single straw of The Lion King’s semen is thawed under controlled conditions and a technician observes and selects under the microscope the motile and morphologically good sperm to be used to fertilize the Babydoll egg previously harvested. The technician uses a micromanipulator to select the single spermatozoon that is then aspirated into a micropipette. The micropipette is inserted through the zona pellucida surrounding the oocyte, into the cytoplasm, and the single spermatozoon is injected.
The fertilized zygote is cultured for several days until it is the appropriate size, whereby the cleaved embryo is then transferred to the synchronized recipient mare using non-surgical techniques. The pregnancy is confirmed using ultrasound at 5 days, 16 days, 25 days, 30 days, and 50 days. After 51 days, the recipient mare with a The Lion King x Babydoll fetus is sent home to mature.
The advancements in equine reproduction are truly remarkable and have allowed Echo Mountain Ranch to carry on the phenomenal bloodlines of The Lion King. A more scholarly description and explanation of the ICSI process may be accessed using the CSU Equine Reproduction Laboratory website.