PRAGUE – An Asiatic lioness has been artificially inseminated at a zoo in the capital of the Czech Republic in the world’s first such procedure in a bid to encourage the survival of a subspecies facing dwindling numbers in India, the only country where they live in the wild.
Ginni, 6, was placed under anesthetic late Wednesday by a team of specialists from the Czech Republic and neighboring Germany before being inseminated with the semen of a male lion called Sohan, originally brought from Ostrava zoo in the east of the country so the pair could mate naturally.
“It was the first artificial insemination in the Asian lioness and everything worked quite well, we are hopeful that this is a success,” Thomas B Hildebrandt, head of reproduction at Berlin’s Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, told EFE after the hour-long procedure.
Based on his experience with elephants and rhinoceroses, the German specialist said the team had estimated a 60-70 percent chance of Ginni having a successful pregnancy.
He said the team found a small tumor and some mucous glands in the lion’s uterus, which meant she would have reduced fertility, something that could affect her when it came to getting pregnant.
Hildebrandt said natural mating and behavior was more important than artificial techniques, but Ginni had not been able to conceive naturally over the past year and “it was important to give her a chance to have offspring.”
Ginni and Sohan have mated numerous times but so far nothing has come of it. On Wednesday, the pair mated 23 times, which indicated there was natural ovulation, according to the zoo’s curator of mammals, Pavel Brandl.
The team of vets opted against hormonal treatment to spark ovulation, a technique they deemed unsuitable when it came to the health of these animals, Bradl said.
It was now a 60-day waiting game for signs of changes in the lioness’ behavior or body.
“After 110 days we will see if there is a successful birth or not,” Hildebrandt said.
Around 600 Asiatic lions lives in Gir Natural Park in India’s westernmost state of Gujarat.
There are about 250 Asiatic lions in captivity in Europe, almost all descendants of nine animals brought over to the continent in the 1990s.