Reproductive non-seasonality in rhinoceroses: A review of the in-situ literature and birth records of ex-situ institutions

Authors

  • Katharina Radeke-Auer Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich
  • Anita Wittwer Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich
  • Julia Aust Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich
  • Marco Roller Zoological Garden of Karlsruhe
  • Dennis Müller Zoological Garden of Halle
  • Friederike von Houwald Zoological Garden of Basel and Zoological Garden of Bern
  • Beatrice Steck Zoological Garden of Basel
  • Rebecca Biddle Twycross Zoo, East Midland Zoological Society
  • Lars Versteege Safaripark Beekse Bergen
  • Marcus Clauss Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Zürich

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v10i1.628

Keywords:

husbandry, rhinoceros, reproduction, seasonality

Abstract

Mammals whose breeding activity is triggered by seasonal photoperiodic cues typically maintain seasonal reproduction in zoos, with births accumulating to various degrees in spring. For zoo-kept rhinoceroses, accumulation of births in autumn has been suggested, which would make this group unusual. We compare birthing (and hence conception) patterns of free-ranging rhinoceros populations from the scientific literature with those of the global zoo populations based on birth data available from Species360, to facilitate deductions on the cues that trigger rhinoceros reproduction. The patterns do not indicate a photoperiodic element in rhinoceros reproduction but suggest suppression of conception in free-ranging populations at times of resource scarcity. This is not evident in zoos. However, a slight accumulation of autumn births, due to a slight reduction in births in spring, is visible in the zoo populations. Given rhinoceros gestation periods, this is linked to reduced conceptions in November–December. The most parsimonious interpretation is management-related, as has been suggested (Roth 2006, Int. Zoo Yb. 40(1): 130–143): not all facilities are prepared to allow mating at times when outdoor husbandry is reduced due to weather restrictions. Given the long interbirth intervals of rhinoceroses, missed conception opportunities of 1–2 months are unlikely to affect population demographics. Nevertheless, detailed recording of approaches to facilitate mating during winter months by those zoos that achieve this may increase the general skill of rhinoceros management.

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Published

31-01-2022

How to Cite

Radeke-Auer, K., Wittwer, A., Aust, J., Roller, M., Müller, D., von Houwald, F., Steck, B., Biddle, R., Versteege, L., & Clauss, M. (2022). Reproductive non-seasonality in rhinoceroses: A review of the in-situ literature and birth records of ex-situ institutions. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 10(1), 23–30. https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v10i1.628

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