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Hormone analysis helps identify horny rhinos
Date:8/22/2014

The first comprehensive study of captive black rhino reproduction in Europe highlights how hormone analysis could improve the success of breeding programmes.

Researchers from Chester Zoo, The University of Manchester and the University of Liverpool carried out a six-year study which encompassed 90% of European population of black rhino.

Dr Katie Edwards led the research as part of her PhD at the University of Liverpool. She says: "Although some black rhinoceros breed well in captivity, not all do therefore reducing the vital genetic reserve that these populations represent. This species is of high conservation importance, so understanding what could be limiting breeding in certain individuals and how we could make improvements is a priority."

In total 9743 samples from 11 zoos were sent to Chester Zoo's Wildlife Endocrinology laboratory to analyse female reproductive cycles.

Dr Edwards says: "Our analyses showed that females who had never bred were more likely to exhibit irregular oestrous cycles, indicating that underlying physiology is involved in differences in breeding success."

Dr Edwards continues: "As well as non-breeding females not cycling as reliably, behavioural observations showed us that these females don't necessarily show when they are ready to mate, which can make managing breeding difficult. Hormone analysis helps address this problem by allowing us to predict when a female will be sexually receptive to a male, even if she doesn't make it obvious."

Hormone analysis has been successfully used at Chester Zoo which has seen three births in the last three years.

As well as looking at hormone analysis, the researchers also investigated a number of other factors that could affect breeding success.

Females that had never bred were found to be heavier than those that had, demonstrating that maintaining a suitable diet in captivity can play an important role in the su
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Contact: Alison Barbuti/Morwenna Grills
alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk
44-016-127-58383
University of Manchester
Source:Eurekalert  

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