A Review of Reproductive Medical Conditions in a Collection of Captive Bonobos (Pan paniscus)
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2010
Dominique L. Keller1,2, DVM, PhD; Victoria L. Clyde2, DVM; Barbara Bell2, BS; Leanne Beehler2, LPN, RDCS; Roberta S. Wallace2, DVM
1School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA; 2Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee, WI, USA


Reproductive management of the captive bonobo population entails thorough knowledge of medical conditions affecting this species. The medical records of 28 (9 males, 19 females) bonobos ranging in age from 10 months to 60 years at the Milwaukee County Zoo from 1986 to the present were reviewed. Reproductive conditions in males were rare but included prostate-related disease in two animals. Reproductive problems in females had a broader range and could be categorized as pregnancy-related conditions, issues related to contraceptive management, reproductive tract abnormalities or trauma. The most numerous reports were pregnancy-related, including abruptio placenta with subsequent death of the dam and fetus, pre-eclampsia and placental insufficiency with resultant low-weight infant, spontaneous abortion, and blighted ova identified through repetitive reproductive sonograms. Contraceptive-associated problems included breakthrough bleeding while on lower estrogen dose oral birth control pills. Reproductive tract abnormalities included two cases of trauma to the external genitalia and one case of suspected uterine fibroids.

Bonobos appear relatively robust reproductively. The number of abnormal reproductive problems was low over the 24 years of records reviewed. Early pregnancy detection through urine hormone testing with subsequent repetitive reproductive sonograms allows monitoring of the fetus and placenta for abnormalities and provides for estimation of gestational age and parturition date.1,2

Literature Cited

1.  Drews, B., L.M. Harmann, L.L. Beehler, B. Bell, R.F. Drews, and T.B. Hildebrandt. 2010. Ultrasonographic monitoring of fetal development in unrestrained bonobos (Pan paniscus) at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Zoo Biol. 28:1–12.

2.  Teare, J.A., B. Bell, R. Kuhlmann, and G. Geanon. 1996. Ultrasonographic measurement of fetal growth in a bonobo (Pan paniscus). J. Zoo Wildl. Med. 27:447–481.


Speaker Information
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Dominique L. Keller, DVM, PhD
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI, USA

Milwaukee County Zoo
Milwaukee, WI, USA

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