The world’s first jaguar cub has been born through artificial insemination, but was eaten soon after delivery.
The veterinary team behind the procedure at the environmental organisation Mata Ciliar in Sao Paulo, Brazil, have hailed the birth as a scientific breakthrough, despite the way it ended.
Jaguars are currently an endangered species with diminishing numbers, so scientists hope artificial insemination will help in conservation efforts to preserve the species.
The healthy female cub was born on February 16 this year, 104 days after her five-year-old mother, Bianca, was artificially inseminated.
Although vets witnessed Bianca demonstrate ‘excellent maternal care’ on the first day, two days after giving birth she ate her baby.
Samuel Nunes, spokesperson for Mata Ciliar, explained they don’t know if the cub was killed by its mother:
We don’t know why and cannot say if it was killed by the mother because it was not seen on the monitors on the second day.
Bianca was a first time mother and this may have influenced the outcome of the event. The veterinary team could not conduct a necropsy because the baby had already been eaten.
It is not uncommon for this to happen, both in captivity and in nature, especially in the case of carnivores.
As Nunes mentions, the scientists had been filming Bianca and her cub, capturing the historic birth on camera.
You can watch it here:
Initiated in 2017, the project was developed in partnership with scientists at the Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), and a leading researcher in the field, Regina Paz, from Brazil’s Mata Grosso Federal University (FUMG).
Paz explained how five female jaguars were picked to be artificially inseminated, all of a good age and good health.
However, numerous attempts with the females were unsuccessful, and scientists first saw a positive result in November last year, which led to the birth of the cub.
The positive result excited scientists who’d been intensely working on the project, developing ways to monitor the female jaguars’ behaviour and synchronise their body heat.
They were further delighted when the cub was born, as Dr Bill Swanson, a researcher at CREW, said:
The jaguar is the last of the seven species of large-sized felines to undergo artificial insemination (AI).
The birth of this cub is an important historical landmark. It invigorates the possibility of the use of assisted reproduction as a management tool that increases the genetic variability of (captive and wild) populations and the conservation of these endangered iconic cats.
Despite the grim ending for the cub, researchers are hoping to carry out more procedures this year.
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Emily Murray is a journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Leeds with a BA in English Literature and History before studying for a Masters in Journalism at the University of Salford. Emily has previously worked for the BBC, ITV and Trinity Mirror. When Emily isn’t writing about topics including mental health and entertainment, you can find her at the cinema which is her second home.