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ESR 4:277-281 (2008)  -  DOI:

Rapid colour-change pregnancy test for rhinoceros using faeces

Edith A. MacDonald1,2,*, Wayne L. Linklater1,3,4, Karen J. Steinman1,5, Nancy M. Czekala1,6

1Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, 15600 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California 92027, USA
2Present address: Wellington Zoo Trust, 200 Daniel Street, Newtown Wellington 6021, New Zealand
3Present address: Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
4Present address: Centre for African Conservation Ecology, Department of Zoology, Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth Eastern Cape 6031, South Africa
5Present address: Sea World & Busch Gardens Reproductive Research Center, Busch Entertainment Corporation, 500 SeaWorld Drive, San Diego, California, USA
6Present address: Papoose Conservation Wildlife Foundation, PO Box 575, Del Mar, California 92014, USA

ABSTRACT: Pregnancy is routinely determined by monitoring faecal progestogen levels in black and white rhinoceros, Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum, respectively. However, current laboratory procedures are too slow and not practical in the field, and transporting samples to the laboratory may not be possible, may cause them to deteriorate, or result in delays such that events subsequent to sampling supersede the results. We modified current enzyme-immuno assays (EIA) methods to create a field test that is robust under field conditions, requires minimal technical equipment and expertise, and yields results on-site within 24 h. The field assay is a tri-colour test and pregnancy is determined visually. Faecal samples from 55 free-ranging white and 7 black rhinoceros were collected from the rectums of animals at capture and from fresh dung piles while the rhinoceros were temporarily housed in boma. The accuracy of the colour-change field test was confirmed by radio-immuno assay (RIA) of matched faeces and independent blood serum analyses for 23 pregnant and 39 non-pregnant rhinoceros. This field pregnancy test is likely to be appropriate for other animals, such as elephants, that have high and sustained levels of progestogen during pregnancy.

KEY WORDS: Enzyme-immuno assay · Diceros bicornis · Ceratothirum simum · Reproductive monitoring · Progestogen

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Cite this article as: MacDonald EA, Linklater WL, Steinman KJ, Czekala NM (2008) Rapid colour-change pregnancy test for rhinoceros using faeces. Endang Species Res 4:277-281.

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