Assisted Reproduction to Save Asiatic Cheetah

Experts are placing high hopes in the artificial insemination project in cooperation with a French team to help the Cheetah couple, Koushki and Delbar, finally reproduce
The possible cubs are expected to be born in the spring. The possible cubs are expected to be born in the spring.
The success of the project depends on the health conditions of Delbar that is to be examined in the first phase

An artificial insemination project involving the Asiatic cheetah couple "Koushki and Delbar" at Tehran's Pardisan Research Center is scheduled for mid-January, which could end up with successful breeding in the coming spring if everything goes as planned.

"The project has gained importance as the possibility of natural breeding of cheetahs has waned," Houman Jokar, the head of conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project, told Mehr News Agency.

All breeding efforts have so far been unsuccessful. Delbar became pregnant in the summer of 2015 but lost her cub.

Hence, experts are now placing high hopes in artificial insemination to help the couple finally reproduce. According to the official, the project is to be implemented in cooperation with a French team that is slated to arrive in mid-January.

"Despite the delay in their visa issuance, we still hope they will make it on the due date," the official said.  

Although Koushki is in perfect physical health, he is aging and might become unable to produce quality sperm cells. Therefore, last year, German scientists carried out sperm cryopreservation to ensure breeding.

However, experts prefer not to use the frozen sperms for fertilization as long as they can take it directly from Koushki.

Nevertheless, the success of the project depends on the health conditions of Delbar that is to be examined in the first phase. The researchers will examine her reproductive system to ensure the animal is able to breed, which process might last two weeks.

Delbar's pregnancy will take at most 95 days and she is expected to give birth to cubs next spring, if the breeding is successful.

According to a research published by Scientificamerican.com, breeding cheetahs is difficult for many reasons.

Because most of the species died and only a small number of them is left to repopulate in the wild, today’s cheetah population suffers from low genetic diversity.

All living cheetahs are 5-10% genetically alike; this similarity manifests itself in poor sperm quality, increased disease susceptibility and high infant mortality. To make matters worse, females are picky about which mates they choose and have frail reproductive cycles.  The species that once roamed lands from the Arabian Peninsula to India only survives in Iran today, but its population is shrinking in its last home that currently has fewer than 50 of them.  

Despite measures to protect the critically endangered animal, the species is still threatened by multiple factors, including the destruction of habitats, road construction, lack of prey and the presence of cattle and sheepdogs, among others.

Experts hope that artificial breeding will save the species from extinction.

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