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Case Studies

Asian Elephant Reproduction

 The Wildlife Reproduction Centre (WRC) monitors all the females of the Zoo’s herd to determine the optimal time for natural mating or artificial insemination, and to diagnose pregnancy and determine the likely timing of birth. Work continues to determine the sex of the baby using hormonal changes in the pregnant female.

Remote Monitoring of Adrenal Activity in Rhinoceros

 Our Zoo-based population provides us with an opportunity to test faecal hormone monitoring as a method for measuring adrenal activity in rhinos. In combination with keeper notes and behavioural observations, we are able to determine the best hormone analysis techniques for this species. This validation could prove useful to the assessment of adrenal activity in free-ranging populations in future research programs.

Current Projects

In Vitro Fertilisation of Rhino Eggs

 Over the last five years, an international team of reproductive experts including IZW from Berlin and Australian equine experts has gathered at Taronga Western Plains Zoo to develop techniques to collect, mature and fertilise eggs from two non-reproductive black rhino females. Each year has advanced our knowledge and we are now capable of retrieving eggs, maturing them and have produced the world’s first rhino IVF embryo. Next steps will improve embryo development and transfer to surrogate mothers.

Analysis of factors governing captive breeding success in the Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

(PhD Student Tamara Keeley, Honours Student Kellie Masters)

 The objective of this study is to increase our knowledge of reproduction under different environmental conditions. We use non-invasive analysis of reproductive and adrenal hormones combined with behavioural observations during estrous, natural mating and parturition to determine potential factors governing breeding success. The results will guide the management of our insurance population to maximise breeding success as well as expanding our understanding of the species biology.

Reproductive parameters of subtropical Dugongs (PhD Student Elizabeth Burgess)

The Wildlife Reproductive Centre, in collaboration with PhD student Elizabeth Burgess, Dr Janet Lanyon (Marine Vertebrate Ecology Research Group at the University of Queensland) and staff at SeaWorld and the Sydney Aquarium we are studying zoo-based Dugongs to better understand Dugong reproductive biology and develop population models that incorporate reliable life history parameters. Hormone metabolite concentrations in faecal samples have been used to map reproductive patterns in known Dugongs, and paired with morphometric parameters to determine gender and reproductive state in wild dugongs. This information has improved the monitoring of this species from absolute numbers to include an understanding of population dynamics and viability.

Researcher Profiles

Researcher Profiles
Taronga and Taronga Western Plains Zoos have attracted some of the best scientific minds in the world. Working together they are making a positive difference for wildlife.

Tamara Keeley