Saving cheetah populations with IVF

I would imagine most of us are familiar with in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the context of reproduction. In case you’re not, though, IVF involves “a complex series of procedures used to help with fertility or prevent genetic problems and assist with the conception of a child. During IVF, mature eggs are collected (retrieved) from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. Then the fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs (embryos) are transferred to a uterus,” says the Mayo Clinic website.

While most of us associate IVF with human reproduction, it is now being used to help re-populate endangered species – cheetahs, in particular.

“In a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough, two cheetah cubs have been born through an in vitro fertilization process with the embryo transferred to a surrogate mother,” explains an article from The Good News Network. “The births took place … at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium after years of careful planning … IVF has become a more common process with humans and some other species, but it previously has been unsuccessful in large cats, including cheetahs and lions.

“In this case, however, the two cubs were delivered by an older cheetah named Isabelle (Izzy) on February 19th—although the cubs’ biological mother is Kibibi,” the article says.

Dr. Randy Junge, the Columbus Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Health, is quoted in the article as referring to these births as a momentous achievement in regards to increasing populations of dwindling species.

“’These two cubs may be tiny, but they represent a huge accomplishment, with expert biologists and zoologists working together to create this scientific marvel … This achievement expands scientific knowledge of cheetah reproduction, and may become an important part of the species’ population management in the future.’”

Considering the last successful artificial insemination of cheetahs occurred in 2003, I’d say this breakthrough is pretty darn fantastic.

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