Just two days after the world’s first jaguar cub was born using artificial insemination, it was likely eaten by its mother, according to reports.
The birth was hailed as a landmark scientific breakthrough for the conversation of the species when the cub was delivered by vets at the environmental organization Mata Ciliar in Jundiaí, Sao Paulo in February, the New York Post reported.
An AI procedure performed by scientists from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife led to this birth! https://t.co/WTHbQvWcDI
— NBC12 WWBT Richmond (@NBC12) March 14, 2019
In November, the cub’s mother, Bianca, was one of five selected to take part in the insemination experiment, which used laparoscopic AI methods developed by the Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife scientists (CREW).
The cub was born “healthy and vigorous” on Feb. 16, 104 days after the insemination of her mother, who showed “excellent maternal care” for her cub, vets said, according to the Mail Online.
Cincinnati Zoo’s CREW is at it again! They’ve had a major scientific milestone for conservation with the arrival of the first jaguar cub from born artificial insemination at the Associação Mata Ciliar in Brazil! https://t.co/PFWbbVAC2f pic.twitter.com/nHKC8oVmOL
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) March 14, 2019
But just two days after the cub was born, it vanished from the maternity den.
“Unfortunately after two days, the cub died,” a spokesperson for Mata Ciliar told FocusOn News, the Post reported.
“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,” the spokesman explained.
The cub’s death, while sudden, was not surprising, scientists have said. It is not uncommon for a mother jaguar to eat its cub, said Dr. Lindsey Vansandt, a theriogenologist who led the project.
Cases like these happen “both in captivity and in nature, especially in the case of carnivores,” she explained.
The felines are an endangered species with population numbers fast declining. Around 90 percent of jaguars can be found living in limited Amazonian territory.
Just like with many other endangered big cats, jaguar population is declining due to illegal poaching, conflict with humans and loss of habitat. On #JaguarDay read how @theGEF @UNDP are changing the story: https://t.co/xlmmiDnWep #COP14 pic.twitter.com/Ui0ms7Rzkf
— GEF (@theGEF) November 29, 2018
Footage taken to record the historic birth shows the process, from the extraction of fresh semen from a sedated healthy male, to inseminating the female and carrying out ultrasound scans.
The cub’s birth was captured on CCTV just over three months after Bianca’s insemination, and it can be seen snuggling up to her doting mother.
The Mata Ciliar project, which was developed in partnership with Regina Paz, a leading researcher in the field from Brazil’s Mata Grosso Federal University (FUMG), and CREW, has been ongoing since 2017.
Scientists hope the insemination holds the answer to reviving the jaguar population.
People are killing endangered jaguars … for herbal medicine. pic.twitter.com/5eJpsHyHqB
— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 29, 2018
Despite what happened to the jaguar cub, CREW researchers remain positive and say the birth “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.”
“The jaguar is the last of the seven species of large-sized felines to undergo artificial insemination (AI),” said Dr. Bill Swanson, a CREW researcher.
“From a scientific perspective, we are celebrating the fact that the baby was born healthy and that AI was a success,” Dr. Vansandt added.