There are many questions concerning the conservation of non-domestic carnivores. Gittleman et al. (2001) classify carnivores as “umbrella species”, since they are predators and require large areas to compound their territory. Thus, if carnivores are conserved, a large number of species and ecosystems will be protected also. Carnivores are also classified as indicator species—those that reflect critical environmental damage; keystone species—those that play a pivotal role in ecosystems; flagship species—popular species that attract much attention; and vulnerable species—species most likely to become extinct.
The goal of carnivore conservation is to reverse declines in populations and to secure remaining populations in ways that will gain enduring public support. In this context, biotechnology has a tremendous potential as a tool for assisting conservation of endangered canids and felids (Wildt, 1997; Bainbridge and Jabbour, 1998; Howard, 1999). Goodrowe et al. (2000) suggest that the Carnivora order has numerous representatives that are imperiled and could benefit from reproductive biotechnology. Due to the phylogenetic similarities between the domestic and non-domestic carnivorous species, the first are used as an experimental model for the others, mainly because of the lack of availability of non-domestic carnivores for use in experiments (Pope et al., 1993). Because the first step for biotechnology development is gamete obtainment, this review will discuss the potential of gamete recovery from non-domestic canids and felids, based on learning how to apply these procedures in the domestic carnivores.