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Characterization of estrous cycles and pregnancy in Somali wild asses (Equus africanus somaliensis) through fecal hormone analyses
- Kozlowski, Corinne P., Clawitter, Helen L., Thier, Tim, Fischer, Martha T., Asa, Cheryl S.
- Zoo biology 2018 v.37 no.1 pp. 35-39
- Equus africanus somaliensis, breeding programs, estrogens, estrus, feces, females, foals, heat, immunoassays, metabolites, parturition, pregnancy, zoos
- Although reproduction in the domestic horse has been well described, less is known about reproduction in wild equids. This study describes endocrine patterns associated with estrous cycles and pregnancy for Somali wild asses (Equus africanus somaliensis), an endangered African equid. Fecal samples were collected three times per week for more than 2 years from five female Somali wild asses at the Saint Louis Zoo; progestagen and estrogen metabolites were quantified using commercially available immunoassays. Progestagen analysis indicated that cycle lengths were 27.2 ± 1.2 days and females cycled throughout the year. Progestagen levels during early pregnancy were low and not sustained above baseline until approximately 40 weeks prior to partition. Concentrations increased markedly around 16 weeks prior to delivery and peaked 2–3 weeks before birth. Fecal estrogen levels also increased significantly starting 40–45 weeks before parturition and reached their maximal value approximately 20 weeks prior to birth. Neither foal heat nor lactational suppression of estrus was observed, and females cycled within 45 days after delivery. These data are the first to describe the reproductive physiology of Somali wild asses. As the species faces increasing threats in the wild, this information may support conservation efforts by assisting with ex situ breeding programs.