Is Artificial Insemination Bad for Conservation?

Posted on March 21st 2021

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Could technology actually hinder conservation? Recently a lion cub was born in Singapore Zoo using artificial insemination. This was reported as a success for wildlife conservation, but is that actually true? Labelling it as a success for conservation against the backdrop of destruction to biodiversity in the wild could be very misleading.

Faith in technology

Humans are slow to act when it comes to climate change. Technology is partially to blame, as we tend to think that we’ll ‘solve’ our way out of the issue. Too much faith placed on technology means people start to feel that nothing is required to be done because technology will save the day.

Lions breed easily in both the wild and in captivity given the chance. So why do we need to interfere with artificial insemination? Apparently the aim was not to increase lion numbers, but to test the process so as to use it as a conservational tool to increase numbers of other endangered cat populations like the Scottish wildcat, Asiatic golden cat, and the black footed cat.

Conservation over simplified

Conservation is being over simplified in some peoples minds as an issue of numbers. Therefore some will associate this ‘success’ as a step towards solving the conservation issue. It is true that the number of lions in the wild is decreasing (40% decrease in wild population in last 20 years). So artificial insemination is a positive on the face of it. But, that is an over simplistic view. We can’t let people think that it is all about low numbers and therefore technology such as artificial insemination will solve it. We can’t think we’ll just ‘create’ more.

Behavioural change required

Humans are reactionary. Short term wins trump long term slower action. Actual reasons for loss of lion numbers are numerous. Habitat loss, loss of prey due to increased competition for space and food with humans, desertification, disease, and hunting are all cited as reasons. All these issues require humans to change behaviour, and technology alone will not solve that. Diverting attention to focus on technological success is damaging to all efforts on actual conservation.

Yes artificial insemination can be applauded but it has to be in context. It can not be viewed as a success for conservation. Biodiversity loss is our responsibility, and technology will not reverse it. Only behavioural change can do that.

If you would like to find out about supporting conservation efforts for lions then please visit our Adopt a Lion page.

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