We have good news and bad news. Let's go with the good before we move on to the bad.
Singapore Zoo has announced the birth of an adorable lion cub, the first in the country to be born following artificial insemination. The zoo has named the animal Simba, Swahili for "lion", and fitting for the son of a lion called Mufasa.
The cub appears healthy and happy following assisted feeding from his keepers. Three months after its birth, he has now moved on to solid foods, and enjoys playing with his ball and other enrichment tools. Like his namesake in the film The Lion King, he is working on his roar.
Now to the somewhat NSFW part of the story that differs quite a lot from the version of The Lion King that we know and love. Simba's father, named Mufasa, was an elderly lion when his semen was extracted.
His aggressive nature had prevented any successful pairings with a female during his lifetime. As such, he had sired no offspring, and the zoo decided to extract his semen using the process of electro-ejaculation.
The process is adapted from animal to animal, and even occasionally takes place in humans. The principle across large mammals is essentially the same, however, in that you insert the device into the rectum of the animal you want semen from, with a sheath over the animal's penis for collection.
"Insert the lubricated probe completely in the animal’s rectum with the electrodes oriented ventrally (towards the front, underside)," a manual for the AC-1 Electrojaculator reads. "In a rhythmic motion, stimulate the animal by turning the power knob clockwise, pause, return to zero and pause. Some movement of the rear legs will occur during stimulation."
The device stimulates the animal in 2-3 seconds bursts, which repeat over the course of several minutes. If no result is obtained, it may be tried again with a higher voltage. The manual notes:
"Electroejaculation of an animal demands skill. It is not simply a matter of punching buttons and turning knobs, but requires finesse to find the proper timing and voltage to apply."
Some animals, such as especially aggressive lions, may be placed under sedation for the procedure, as was the case for Mufasa. Sadly, due to his age (20) and deteriorating health, he did not survive the electro-ejaculation procedure and was not revived afterward.
"Mufasa lived to the ripe old age of 20 but did not sire any cubs in his lifetime because of his aggressive behavior, which did not bring about successful pairings with any female," Wildlife Reserves Singapore said in a statement seen by Channel News Asia. “Yet his genes would be of high value in contributing to the genetic diversity and sustainability of African lion populations in zoological institutions."
His semen was used to inseminate lioness Kayla, who gave birth to Simba on October 23, 2020.