This article is a reprint from the Science and Conservation Center
Still another activity of the SCC is the remote diagnosis of pregnancy, or remote monitoring of ovarian function, through the measurement of reproductive steroid hormone metabolites in urine or feces. This technology removed the stresses of capture for the animals in question, and is consistent with the humane dimensions of wildlife contraception. Remote pregnancy diagnosis was originally utilized to facilitate contraceptive studies, and to fine tune the timing of booster inoculations. For example, the efficacy of a PZP inoculation in a mare treated in March, can be assessed by September of the same year, without having to wait until the spring of the following year. The monitoring of ovarian activity through urinary or fecal analysis was originally utilized to assess the safety of the PZP vaccine, or to alert zoo curators of impending pregnancies among animals in the collection, or to assess fetal or neonatal losses in bighorn sheep for a government agency.
The application of this technology has been extended to basic reproductive studies in wildlife species where little is know about the reproductive biology of the species. Examples of studies conducted by the SCC include assessment of fertility in aging primates, rhinos, and bongos. The current cost of assays is approximately $20/sample (see Barkuff et al. 2003; Kirkpatrick 1996b; Kirkpatrick and Lasley 1991, 1993; Kirkpatrick et al. 1988, 1990a,b, 1991b, 1992b, 1993b,c, 1996: Lasley and Kirkpatrick 1991).