A step towards tackling inbreeding is being celebrated by scientists‚ who have successfully used artificial insemination on a lioness in the North West.
The lioness‚ at the Ukutula Conservation Center and Biobank‚ has given birth to two cubs conceived via non-surgical artificial insemination (AI)‚ using fresh semen collected from an adult male lion at the same facility. These are the first lion cubs to be born by means of artificial insemination‚ according to a team of scientists from the University of Pretoria (UP)‚ who are studying the reproductive physiology of the female African lion.
The development of artificial insemination protocols for this species could be used as a baseline for other endangered large wild cats‚ the team said in a statement.
Explaining the need for these protocols‚ the team said: “Although African lions normally breed quite well in captivity‚ the wild population is highly fragmented and suffers progressively from isolation and inbreeding. Indiscriminate killing and prosecution‚ habitat loss and prey depletion‚ epidemic diseases‚ poaching‚ and trophy hunting threaten the extinction of these existing wild populations.”
In just two years‚ the African lion population is estimated to have decreased from about 25‚000 (in 2016)‚ to 18‚000 in 2018. A decline of more than 60% has been noted over the last 25 years.