Reproductive physiology in the wild white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum): new insights for enhanced breeding success

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis



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[Truncated] The African white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), having been rescued from extinction at the end of the 19th century, is one of the five remaining species of rhinoceros, along with the African black (Diceros bicornis), Indian (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan (Rhinoceros sondaicus) and Sumatran (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) species. The population of C. simum faces an uncertain future, primarily because of the extremely high demand for its horn, which is being used illegally as an ingredient of traditional Asian medicine and in the manufacture of ceremonial curved daggers in the Middle East. Rhinoceros horn is also regarded as a status symbol for Chinese and Vietnamese elites. Breeding in captive and semi-captive environments could play a critical role in the survival of this conservation-dependent species, because captive populations can serve as genetic reservoirs and sources of animals for reintroduction into the wild. However, captive white rhinoceros females in captivity, in contrast with their wild counterparts, reproduce poorly and thus show a negative population growth rate (–3.5% pa for the entire captive population). For this reason, the sustainability of the captive population is in jeopardy. The causes of impaired reproduction are poorly understood. Endocrine monitoring of the ovarian activity in captive females has revealed acyclic periods and wide variation in cycle length, both believed to have a pathological origin. On the other hand, it is not known whether wild rhinoceros females show similar characteristics – we do not have a solid foundation of the normal reproductive biology of the species, and the studies to remedy this situation are a main aspect of this thesis.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2015

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