Lions From A Test Tube: Scientists In South Africa Record The First Successful IVF Lion Births

Date September 5, 2018 16:11

A team of research scientists from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, has successfully delivered a lioness of two cubs, conceived via artificial insemination. These are the first ever cubs in the world, born thanks to this method.

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The delivery took place at the Ukutula Conservation Center (UCC) and Biobank, in South Africa, and was part of a study of the reproductive physiology of the female African lion.

IVF Lion cubs delivered in South Africa, South African lionsTheodore Mattas /

A member of the team, Dr. Isabel Callealta, noted that the successful births provided a lot of information about lions and their reproductive processes.  

This, together with the success of the AI births of the lion cubs, not only celebrate a world's first achievement, but has laid the foundation for effective non-surgical AI protocols for this species, using both fresh and frozen-thawed sperm.

IVF Lion cubs delivered in South Africa, South African lionsThomas Retterath /

In 2014, scientists from Cornell University conducted a similar study on dogs. Researchers implanted a female dog with 19 embryos, and eventually, she gave birth to two healthy puppies in the spring.

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IVF dogs successful birth, IVF puppiesAnna Hoychuk /

These successes in animal IVF are groundbreaking, as they offer hope for the survival of rare animal breeds, including the African lion, which is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The African lion population has dropped from 1,2 million individuals in 1800 to about 18 thousand in 2018.

Professor André Ganswindt of the University of Pretoria's Mammal Research Institute, while speaking about the cubs, noted that the rate of extinction of these majec animals is belittled. His hope is that these studies will help protect the lions, and maintain their numbers.

IVF lions born in South Africa, Saving African lions with IVFMariska Vermij - van Dijk /

Animals form a very important part of the human ecosystem, and over the years, many scientists have presented dire predictions for humanity if animals continue to go extinct. With the new findings from this study in Africa, there is some hope that the African lion will be around for much longer.

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