In bittersweet news from the animal kingdom, “the circle of life” from the popular Disney film 'The Lion King' came true as the passing of a male lion led to the birth of a cub.
Singapore zoo welcomed their first-ever cub born through artificial insemination. It has been named Simba. His biological father was named Mufasa, who has passed away. While humans have adopted IVF for decades, assisted birth in lions has been performed just once before when two cubs were born in South Africa via artificial insemination.
Mufasa’s tragic death was in a way because of Simba’s birth. The cub, born on October 23, 2020, is now three-months-old and reported to be overall healthy.
According to the zoo, Mufasa was very old and in poor health. It was their last attempt to get him to procreate by using his semen to impregnate a lioness named Kayla. “Mufasa lived to the ripe old age of 20 but did not sire any cubs in his lifetime because of his aggressive behaviour,” Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) reported. During the electric-pulse semen extraction process, Mufasa’s fragile body could not survive. The zoo officials said that his genes are of “high value” and will contribute “genetic diversity and sustainability of African lion populations in zoological institutions.”
The semen extraction was done using a device called the electro-ejaculator. The electric pulses stimulate the prostate and help in extracting the semen.
According to IFL Science, the principle of extracting semen across large mammals is essentially the same. “You insert the device into the rectum of the animal you want semen from, with a sheath over the animal's penis for collection.” 2-3 seconds bursts are used to stimulate. But Mufasa’s old body could not revive after the procedure.
The reason for which Mufasa lost his life, the birth of Simba, is finally being celebrated after three months. The zoo kept the information private so far. Initially, Simba had trouble adjusting. He could not suckle from Kayla and they resorted to feeding bottles to supplement his nutritional needs. The task wasn’t easy because wild animals tend to reject their young ones after being separated. However, nothing of the sort happened and they are both doing quite well. According to WRS, Simba has Mufasa’s eyes.
He is not being displayed to the public as of now. The zoo’s focus is to help him bond with his mother and later introduce his entire family to him. He has an aunt and a half-sister.
Artificial insemination for lions is fairly new but now looks like a necessity in order to perverse the fast dwindling populations in the wild. Lions, who are listed as vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, are now between 23,000 to 39,000 in the wild.