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SOS Rhino : Research, Projects and Grants : Grants 2000 : White Rhino Reproduction : Reproductive Performance


“An Integrated Approach for the Enhancement of Reproductive Performance of White Rhinoceroses in the EEP”



Dr. Franz Schwarzenberger Dr. Robert Hermes
Dr. Thomas Hildebrandt Dr. Frank Goeritz
Dr. Chris Walzer Dr. Krisitna Tomasova


Institut Fur Biochemie, Veterinarmedizinische
Universitat Wien


Salzburg Zoo
Hellabrunn, AUSTRIA

Zoo Dvur Kralove


At the 1998 white rhino workshop in San Diego reproductive problems in white rhinoceroses have been defined as:

1) acyclicity and variable estrous cycle length of 35 or 70 days
2) mating failure due to acyclicity, or silent estrus due to sibling relationship/mate choice problems
3) conception - pregnancy failure due to presumed uterine pathology

Although reasons for these problems could not be identified definitively, this multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research proposal aims to work on possible solutions. Our combined approach to enhance breeding and overcome reproductive problems includes:

1) endocrine monitoring;
2) transfer of animals to enhance natural breeding;
3) development of artificial insemination (AI).

Serial fecal reproductive monitoring will provide the baseline on which management and therapeutic measures can be evaluated (samples from >25 females will be included). The EEP recommendation is to initially transfer adult animals between zoos in order to break up sibling relationships/overcome mate choice problems.

The effect of transfers and the new social environment on estrous cycle activity will be monitored by fecal steroid analysis.

Recent transfers of rhinoceroses between EEP institutions have resulted in offspring of previously non-breeding animals, however, according to literature, a portion of transfers will probably not result in natural breeding within 30 months after transfer. Therefore another option for the enhancement of breeding, development of artificial insemination, will be considered after initial endocrine monitoring and transrectal ultrasonographic health assessment of the female's genital tract.

Ovulation induction relying on an established protocol will be used for optimal insemination timing and effectiveness of this treatment will be monitored by transrectal ultrasound. For each AI semen will be collected from two bulls by use of electroejaculations. Preliminary results demonstrate that an AI technique suitable to

overcome difficult anatomical structures of the female genital tract is available and this approach will be used and further adapted in subsequent AI attempts.

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