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Keywords:

  • enzyme immunoassay;
  • progestogens;
  • fecal analysis;
  • zoo species

Abstract

The ability of zoos to monitor the reproductive status of their animals can vastly improve the effectiveness of husbandry/management practices, and noninvasive methods such as fecal steroid analysis are the easiest to apply in a zoo setting. Furthermore, enzyme immunoassay (EIA) is preferred to radioimmunoassay (RIA) as the method of quantifying hormones because EIAs do not involve the use, storage, and disposal of radioactive materials. However, progesterone is excreted in the feces as predominantly unconjugated metabolites (progestogens) and, until recently, antibodies able to cross-react with a variety of progestogens were used primarily in RIAs. An EIA using a broad-spectrum progestogen antibody is described and applied to serum and/or fecal samples from female African elephants, black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, okapi, and hippopotami. The clear progestogen profiles generated in these species suggest that the described EIA would be as versatile as the RIA using the same antibody and could be a practical and economical alternative to RIAs for monitoring gonadal function via progestogen analysis in zoo species. Zoo Biol 20:227–236, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.