Restoration of reproductive potential after expiration or removal of melengestrol acetate contraceptive implants in Tigers (Panthera tigris)



The need for contraception in the successful management of captive wild animals is becoming increasingly apparent. Because concerns exist regarding the reversibility of the contraceptive implant melengestrol acetate (MGA), reproductive data for 94 female Amur (Panthera tigris altaica) and Sumatran tigers (Panthera tigris sumatrae) were analyzed using survival analyses to evaluate return to reproductive status after implant removal or assumed expiration. Females placed in potential breeding situations after MGA implants were surgically removed showed a 62% return to reproduction by 5.25 years, whereas females with implants that were assumed to have expired showed only a 30% return to reproduction by 6 years. Implanted females did not reproduce as successfully as non-implanted control females, which showed an 85% probability of reproducing after placement in a new breeding situation by 2.66 years. Parturition increased the probability of reproducing in non-implanted females, but not in implanted females. Litter size, stillbirths, and offspring survival were not significantly different between non-implanted, implant-removed and implant-expired female tigers. Ten female tigers reproduced both before and after implant placement, and the differences in litter size, stillbirths, and offspring survival were not significant, nor were they significantly different from non-implanted females. Prior parturition, age when implant was removed, and duration of implantation did not affect the probability of reproducing for females after implant removal. These results show substantial reversibility of MGA implants, leading to 62% successful reproduction after implant removal. The reasons for lower successful reproduction in animals previously treated with the contraceptive compared to non-implanted females are not known, but a greater delay in reversibility was seen when implants were left in place and only presumed expired. Zoo Biol 26:275–288, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.