Last week, two cheetah cubs were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio. But this was no typical birthing. Rather, it was a historic moment as it marked the first time ever that cheetahs were born through in vitro fertilization (IVF) to a surrogate mom.
IVF has been difficult to achieve in big cats. Three tiger cubs born in 1990 were the last reported success, according to the Columbus Zoo. The birth of the two cubs, each weighing as much as a can of tomato soup, are a hopeful sign that IVF could help the species bounce back from dwindling numbers and a shrinking genetic diversity.
Cheetahs are considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as they face a high risk of extinction in the wild. There are just 7,500 left. Those in the wild roam just 10 percent of the land they once lived on, thanks in part to the expansion of tourism, livestock farming, and ranching in the region.
Through IVF, conservationists hope to give cheetah populations a much-needed boost.