Watch: In breakthrough, cheetahs born in embryo transfer

Two cheetah cubs were born through embryo transfer. ©Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Biologists at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus, Ohio, achieved a breakthrough with the birth of two cheetah cubs to a surrogate mother. It was the first time an embryo transfer was ever performed on a cheetah. “This is a really big breakthrough for us with cheetah reproductive physiology but also with cheetah management,” Adrienne Crosier, a cheetah biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, told Smithsonian. “It gives us a tool in our toolbox that we didn’t have before, where we can reproduce these individuals that are unable or unwilling to breed naturally.”

This was their third attempt at in vitro fertilization after decades of attempts at artificial insemination failed. The cubs were born on Feb. 19 to a 3-year-old surrogate. The donor female was older and unlikely to breed on her own, biologists said. Only about 7,500 cheetahs are believed to remain in the wild, making breeding important to their conservation.

Watch the video below, and read more from Smithsonian.