A jaguar ate her cub — the world’s first jaguar to be born via artificial insemination — just days after its birth.
A team of veterinarians at the environmental organization Mata Ciliar in Jundiaí, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, hailed the birth a scientific breakthrough for the conservation of the species.
The majestic felines are an endangered species with rapidly diminishing numbers surviving in limited Amazonian territory where 90 percent of the animals are found.
But the unexpected death of the baby, while gruesome, is not uncommon, “both in captivity and in nature, especially in the case of carnivores,” scientists said.
The cub was born this year on February 16, 104 days after her mother, a five-year-old jaguar named Bianca, was successfully inseminated.
Scientists released details of the historic project on Monday to FocusOn.
The little jaguar, a female, was born “healthy and vigorous” and Bianca demonstrated “excellent maternal care” for her newborn on the first day, vets said.
“Unfortunately after two days, the cub died. 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,” Samuel Nunes, spokesperson for Mata Ciliar told to FocusOn News.
“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.”
A video capturing the historic birth and shows some of the stages of the pioneering process. In the footage, vets sedate a healthy mature male, extract fresh semen, analyze the sperm in the lab, insert the selected reproductive cells into the female, and carry out ultrasound scans.
The Mata Ciliar project, which has been ongoing since 2017, was developed in partnership with world-renowned scientists at the Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) based at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens in the United States, and a leading researcher in the field, Regina Paz, from Brazil’s Mata Grosso Federal University (FUMG).
Bianca was one of five female jaguars chosen to participate in the project on account of their good health, age, suitability for reproduction and “favorable behavior.”
“Over the past few years we have made several attempts at artificial insemination with the females, but they have not worked,” Professor Paz of FUMG’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine explained.
“But in November last year, we achieved a positive result.”
Just over three months later, the live birth of the single cub was captured on CCTV and shows the doting mother caring for her newborn which snuggles up to her and feeds.
“The project required intensive preparation even before artificial insemination could be started,” Nunes said.
“The five females selected to participate in the project had to undergo a conditioning process that aimed to reduce their levels of stress. This limited the need to anesthetize them particularly during procedures such as ultrasound, administering hormones and medications.”
Paz revealed that researchers developed a procedure for synchronizing the females’ hormonal body heat and monitoring of their behavior.
Vets inseminated Bianca by using laparoscopic artificial insemination developed by CREW researchers, a method used in previous work with other species of wild cats.
“The jaguar is the last of the seven species of large-sized felines to undergo artificial insemination (AI),” Dr Bill Swanson, a researcher at CREW said.
“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 what happened to the newborn, research team leaders said they are happy with the result. They are already planning to carry out more procedures throughout this year.
“From a scientific perspective, we are celebrating the fact that the baby was born healthy and that AI was a success,” Dr. Lindsey Vansandt, a CREW researcher said.
Due to poaching and habitat loss, the jaguar population has dwindled dramatically throughout its natural environment which stretches from the southwestern United States, through Brazil and into Argentina.