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SOS Rhino : Research, Projects and Grants : Zoo Projects : Experience Breeds Success at North Carolina Zoo

Experience Breeds Success at North Carolina Zoo


Our traveling rhinoceros specialist, Dr. Nan Schaffer, visited the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro and collected semen from a pair of southern white rhinos.

Successfully collecting a large quantity of semen from a white rhino is no easy task. The procedure requires general anesthesia, which makes it a complicated and risky endeavor, because white rhinos do not respond well to anesthesia. Dr. Schaffer's methodology improved their response. With careful maintenance of the rhinoceroses under anesthesia by the zoo vets and the new use of ultrasound to monitor the procedure by Dr. Schaffer, a victory was won.

With the successful outcome, Dr. Schaffer was able to freeze the semen for analysis. Semen from a rhinoceros usually does not freeze well, meaning that once it is frozen, the sperm's motility, or movement, may not be regained once thawed. Water in the sperm cell is replaced by a cryogenic preservative, since it can rupture the cell. Water returns when the cell is thawed but the motility may not return to its pre-freeze level. These methods still need to be improved.

SOS Rhino currently supports a research project headed by an Austrian and a German--veterinary scientists Schwarzenberger and Hildebrandt. This project is further defining the ultrasound monitoring technique and semen collection procedure. Schwarzenberger and Hildebrandt are conducting an analysis of fertility of rhinos and attempting an artificial insemination of a rhino. Learning more about the rhino's reproductive system may help bring the endangered animal back from the brink of extinction.

Schaffer discussed the method that meant success in North Carolina and its possible repercussions for the propagation of the species at the International Elephant and Rhino Research Symposium, which takes place at the Vienna Zoo, June 7--11, 2001


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