Electro-ejaculation was a suitable method for semen collection in this threatened species; all collections were successful and were performed without problems. No change in animal’s behavior or health was observed after collections, suggesting that the protocol used was clinically and ethically acceptable.
Sperm morphology evaluation in an ejaculate is used to characterize the number of normal and abnormal cells. Primary defects result from problems during spermatogenesis and secondary defects during final spermatozoa maturation in the epididymis. Semen quality observed here was similar to previous studies. A high percentage (mean 51%) of morphologically abnormal spermatozoa was present in the ejaculate of all males in a study of jaguars in Brazil.
The presence of secondary defects could be related to poor manipulation of the ejaculate. In the present study, however, the collections were made in an appropriate manner, in accordance with the standard protocol.
Primary defects originate during spermatogenesis and may be the result of genetic, environmental or nutritional factors. Poor quality of semen in wild felids has been associated with low genetic variability. In a study in Latin American zoos, large felids maintained on nutritionally adequate diets had a lower percentage of normal sperm. An analysis of genetic variability and/or paternity may contribute to the elucidation of the cause of low spermatic quality in jaguars in Brazilian zoos.