The African lion is endangered. Pretty much everybody on the planet knows it. It is caused by habitat loss due to commercial expansion funded by the Chinese, poaching for body parts and retaliatory killings by farmers. The African lion is under continual pressure and numbers are falling.
There’s a sense of euphoria that the first test-tube lion cubs have been born which has sparked fresh hope that this magnificent animal can be saved from extinction.
That might be the case but I see it slightly differently. If the authorities, who at the end of the day are charged with conserving the African lion on the continent, see this as a magic backstop position which can preserve the lion permanently then they are liable to open the floodgates to more trophy hunting by, primarily, American shooters.
What I’m worried about is that a carelessness will be introduced into lion conservation because there is now a way out if the lion nears extinction in the wild.
It may well be the case in the future that all the remaining lions will be in captivity and created in laboratories using IVF breeding. I don’t think that that is a scenario which would be welcomed.
However, it is the research team at the University of Pretoria who pioneered this research into in vitro fertilisation of the African lion. The lead researcher says that the IVF research was carried out as a “pre-emptive measure” with the intention of stabilizing populations of endangered animals. I’m not convinced that it is going to work for the reasons that I’ve stated above.
The intention is to extend this IVF breeding to other iconic endangered animals. The two IVF cubs are perfect in every way, we are told. I hope the objectives work out as perfectly.