For the first time in history, a pair of cheetah cubs were born through in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer into a surrogate mother, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in the USA.

This groundbreaking scientific first is a result of a partnership between the Zoo, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.



While the process of IVF is common in humans, it has – until now – unsuccessful in big cats.



Embryos were taken from two female cheetahs named Kibibi and Bella. These were then fertilized in a lab using defrosted semen from a pair of male cheetahs. The embryos were then implanted into female cheetahs Izzy and Ophelia. Only those in Izzy were able to take hold. On 19 February, two cubs were born, one a male and the other a female.

The Zoo explained that these efforts were part of a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) and the Cheetah Sustainability Program (CSP).



Dr. Randy Junge, the Columbus Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Health said:

‘These two cubs may be tiny but they represent a huge accomplishment, with expert biologists and zoologists working together to create this scientific marvel, This achievement expands scientific knowledge of cheetah reproduction, and may become an important part of the species’ population management in the future.’

The cheetahs are being kept in a den in a behind-the-scenes part of the zoo to bond and be monitored.



Jason Ahistus, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center Carnivore Curator said:

‘I am very proud of the team for this accomplishment,

It gives the cheetah conservation community another tool to use in cheetah management, both in situ and ex situ. It really opens the door to many new opportunities that can help the global cheetah population. This is a big win for the cheetah.’

Cover image:Grahm S. Jones, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium