Picky females playing hard to get, overly-aroused alpha males striking out, and a culture of casual sex--no this isn't a your sad, typical bar scene, it's what cheetah-breeding zoos have to deal with to save this endangered cat. As The New York Times' Leslie Kaufman reports, zoos and cheetah experts have turned into terrible wingmen, and as a result, the captive cheetah population isn't doing so hot in the love department. "In the case of cheetahs, fewer than 20 percent of those in North American zoos have been able to reproduce," writes Kaufman. This low rate is even more dismal when you consider that "[f]ree of threats, they breed like rabbits in the wild. They don’t need supercostly assisted reproduction," an expert told Kaufman.
While Kaufman's piece centers on the resources, the science, the pros and cons, and the expenses of breeding cheetahs, what's interesting to us is how similar these animals are to, well, us: Just like mating-age humans looking for love through bar nights/book clubs/college/speed dating/OkCupid or anywhere else, Cheetahs have their own picky preferences about their mates and trouble finding the right one. It's understanding this, in cheetahs especially, that might help us preserve their populations. And there's plenty to learn from striking out too, according to Kaufman:
Then one of the males let out a low, seal-like bark — a signal for an even higher state of arousal. The other males were excused.
To maximize the chances for successful breeding, scientists have learned to separate cheetahs by gender, even preventing them from seeing each other before they mate. It turns out that familiarity can be a turnoff for cheetahs, too.
Finally, it was time to bring in the female. She seemed mystified by the male cheetah’s eagerness and failed to assume a mating position.
For Kaufmann's full piece, head on over to The New York Times.