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Scientists Sterilize One of the World's Most Endangered Animals

Mar 25, 2013 04:14 PM EDT

After two emergency Ceasarian sections, scientists decided to go ahead and sterilize one of the few remaining Iberian lynx's in the world, according to Science World Report.

With an estimated 200 or less left, the Iberian lynx is one of the world's most endangered species. For this reason, scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) decided to surgically remove the Azahara's embryos in hopes of implanting them into a surrogate mother.

In doing so, scientists made a new discovery about the animal. Given that the operation took place a full week after mating, the team handling it assumed the embryos would have made it to the uterus. As it turns out, they were still in the oviducts, revealing that the cat's embryos develop much slower than those belonging to domestic cats.

This is not the first Iberian lynx the group has sterilized.

Saliega was a full 12 years old and had already given birth to 16 cubs when she developed a mammary tumor after her last lactating period. In this case, the eggs were unfertilized, meaning the male hadn't been fertile during mating. However, they were able to freeze the oocytes to be used later, according to the Huffington Post.

And while this sounds complicated, there are still those who are trying to repopulate the world with animals that are already extinct.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the average litter size for the Iberian lynx is three cubs, though rarely more than two survive past weaning. Among the reasons for this and the overall decrease in population is the decrease in food supply as well as habitat loss due to human development. In all, the species has lost 80 percent of its total range. Hunting and even being hit by cars rank high on the list of reasons as to the animal's quick decline toward extinction.

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