It has been well established by several investigative teams that
subfertile reproduction is present in the captive southern white
rhino population. Conclusions from the Southern White Rhinoceros
Workshop in San Diego indicate that several subfertility categories
exist for the captive population: acyclicity, mating failure, conception
failure, and pregnancy failure. Both the wild-born, and the F1 generation
animals are affected by some subfertilities.
Specific conditions include lack of ovulation, variable estrus cycle
lengths, and early pregnancy loss. A series of management recommendations
have been offered from that Workshop for each infertility condition.
Considerable effort has been devoted to the diagnosis of these infertilites,
however there have been no efforts to determine if any of these
conditions exist in the wild populations. We have a very unique
and valuable opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Norman Owen-Smith
in a study of radio-tagged free-ranging southern white rhino.
Dr. Owen-Smith is studying these rhino for feeding ecology and dispersal
studies. We propose to follow the same females in this study and
collect fecal samples and reproductive behavioral observations.
Fecal samples will be treated with the same protocol methods as
our previous studies on the captive population for the measurement
of progestins, and behavioral observations will follow the same
ethogram as the captive study to allow for comparison.
In addition, we will monitor fecal corticoids to assess stress as
an added comparison to the captive animals previously studied. By
these behavioral and endocrine comparisons we will be able to determine
the extent, if any, of the infertility conditions present in the
This evaluation of the wild population will allow for more appropriate
appraisal of the reproductive condition of the captive population.
Combined with observations of rhino movements and social structure
we can also determine the possible effects of social suppression
in the captive herds.