Reproduction is a multifactorial event, and reproductive success depends on many aspects of that animal’s history, environment, and health. Therefore, investigating infertility needs a multilayered, multidisciplinary approach. It is rare that a condition with a simple solution is responsible for reproductive failure. As veterinarians, we are inclined to look for disease and evaluate the animal’s husbandry if there is a health issue. Environment can also have a profound impact on reproduction, even if the animals are otherwise healthy, and should be evaluated at the same time as the animal. Hormone monitoring is a diagnostic tool that provides longitudinal data that can help understand the problem of infertility, but is only one tool and should be used in conjunction with extensive communication to fully elucidate where the breakdown in reproduction might be occurring. Animal managers, reproductive specialists and veterinarians all have a crucial part to play in developing a plan for challenging cases. A diagnostic plan may contain evaluation of the male, via physical exam, blood parameters, semen and sperm assessments, and evaluation of the female including physical exam, blood parameters, hormone monitoring and possibly imaging (ultrasound, radiography, etc.), as well as an evaluation of the social situation and the behavior of the male and female towards each other. Other factors such as nutrition, appropriate management, and potential treatments to mitigate infertility should also be included in the plan. Maximizing reproductive potential of an individual needs input about the direct environment, general health, reproductive parameters, nutrition, etc. Therefore, input should always come from within the institution (keepers, animal managers, veterinarians) but may also need a consultant (reproductive specialist, nutritionist, behaviorist, imaging specialist, taxon specialist, and/or SSP advisor). Including all the stakeholders at the institution is a way of increasing the information input to solve the problem.
The authors would like to thank all the keepers, managers, veterinarians, and other specialists that have been involved in numerous cases that contributed to the composite case presented here.