In a first, South African lion cubs conceived artificially



Looking at the two little lion cubs playing together in a protected center outside the South African capital Pretoria, it is difficult to see something extraordinary.

But these cubs are unique.

"These are the very first lion cubs born through artificial insemination – the first such pair anywhere in the world," announced the University of Pretoria, whose scientists are investigating the reproductive system of female African lions.

The two cubs, a man and a woman born on August 25 are healthy and normal, said Andre Ganswindt, the director of the mammalian research institute at the University of Pretoria.

The breakthrough of his team came after 18 months of intensive processes. "We collected semen from a healthy lion," Ganswindt said.

When the hormone levels of the lionesses became viable, they were artificially inseminated.

"And luckily it was successful," said Mr. Ganswindt, adding that "there were several attempts, but surprisingly it did not take much effort".

He said the breakthrough could be repeated, with scientists hoping that the technique could be used to rescue other endangered big cats.

Lions are extinct in 26 African countries and the numbers in the wild have plunged by 43% in the past two decades, with about 20,000 left, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which lists the African lion as vulnerable. .

"If we do not do something about it, they will face extinction," he said.

Andre Mentz, a prominent lion breeder in the province of South Africa, described the birth of the cubs as "very revolutionary".

But animal welfare organizations are less enthusiastic. "The captive lion farms are exploiting and profit-oriented," said Mark Jones of the Born Free Foundation.


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