Fecal Steroid Assays for Assessing Reproductive-Endocrine Function in the Genus Tragelaphus
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2007
Peter A. Black1, DVM; Steven L. Monfort2, DVM, PhD; Ava M. Trent3, DVM, MVSc, DACVS; Joan E. Bauman1, PhD; Ralph J. Farnsworth3, DVM, MS
1The Saint Louis Zoological Park, Saint Louis, MO, USA; 2Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park Conservation and Research Center, Front Royal, VA, USA; 3College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN, USA


The genus Tragelaphus has been minimally investigated in terms of its reproductive endocrinology. Studies on this genus to date have focused on serum, which carries more risk in animal handling than noninvasive endocrine methods.3,4 Additionally, no studies have been performed to establish normative annual reproductive parameters in these species. This study investigated fecal hormone parameters in multiple species in the genus: greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), bongo (T. eurycerus), sitatunga (T. spekii), lesser kudu (T. imberbis), and nyala (T. angasii). Fecal samples were collected serially from both males and females for 1–12 months from each animal. Samples were collected a minimum of three times per week for females and once per week for males. Fecal extracts were assayed using enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and selected samples were further assayed using radioimmunoassay (RIA). Hormones validated and tested using EIA were progestins, estradiol, and testosterone. Progesterone was validated and tested using RIA.

Despite methodic validation (parallelism to standard curve, linear recovery, and high-pressure liquid chromatography), fecal progestins measured using EIA did not yield clear estrous cyclicity. Early pregnancy (confirmed by later birth) was also not clearly demonstrated. By contrast, RIA was able to detect seasonal estrous cycle changes. While non-specific fecal progestins have been successfully employed to monitor annual reproductive parameters in other members of the family Bovidae, specifically the subfamilies Hippotraginae and Antilopinae, they do not appear to be effective for the genus Tragelaphus.1,2,5,6 Instead, more specific progesterone assays seem to be of greater benefit.


The authors wish to thank Niki Presley and the laboratory staff of the Conservation and Research Center, the laboratory staff at the St. Louis Zoo, the animal care staff and keepers at Como Zoological Garden and the St. Louis Zoo, and the staffs of all the participating institutions.

Literature Cited

1.  Morrow CJ, Monfort SL. Ovarian activity in the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) determined by faecal steroid analysis. Anim Reprod Sci. 1998;53:191–207.

2.  Pickard AR, Abaigar T, Green DI, Holt WV, Cano M. Hormonal characterization of the reproductive cycle and pregnancy in the female mohor gazelle (Gazella dama mhorr). Reprod. 2001;122:571–580.

3.  Schiewe MC, Bush M, Phillips LG, Citino S, Wildt DE. Comparative aspects of estrus synchronization, ovulation induction, and embryo cryopreservation in the scimitar-horned oryx, bongo, eland, and greater kudu. J Exp Zool. 1991;258:75–88.

4.  Schiewe MC, Bush M, de Vos V, Brown JL, Wildt DE. Semen characteristics, sperm freezing, and endocrine profiles in free-living wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros). J Zoo Wildl Med. 1991;22:58–72.

5.  Shaw HJ, Green DI, Sainsbury AW, Holt WV. Monitoring ovarian function in scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah) by measurement of fecal 20α-progestagen metabolites. Zoo Biol. 1995;14:239–250.

6.  Thompson KV, Mashburn KL, Monfort SL. Characterization of estrus cyclicity in the sable antelope (Hippotragus niger) through fecal progestagen monitoring. Gen Comp Endocrinol. 1998;112:129–137.


Speaker Information
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Peter A. Black, DVM
The Saint Louis Zoological Park
Saint Louis, MO, USA

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