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Reproductive Biology


The study of hormones is useful for evaluating reproductive status and health, including timing of ovulation, pregnancy detection, contraceptive effectiveness, seasonality, and even evaluation of environmental stressors. Circulating hormone levels in the blood are reflected in samples such as feces and urine that can be collected non-invasively. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and corticosteroid metabolites can be measured using enzyme immunoassays (EIAs), which are validated for the particular species of interest. As part of Toronto Zoo and SSP® breeding recommendations, monitoring of Toronto Zoo animals, as well as other animals within the North American collection, is routinely carried out. Using the knowledge that has been gained from captive populations, this technique can be applied to assess stress and reproductive health of free-ranging individuals.

Endocrinology - Hormone Analysis

Non-invasive hormone monitoring is conducted to aid in:
  • evaluation of normal reproductive cycles
  • assessment of reproductive seasonality
  • detection of pregnancy
  • detection of ovulation in induced ovulatory species
  • evaluation of contraceptive effectiveness
  • gender determination
  • assessment of stress and effects of environmental changes
The following species are evaluated for reproductive function in an interactive fashion with Animal Care staff here at the Toronto Zoo or staff from other zoos and conservation organizations across Canada and the United States:

  • African elephant
  • Camel
  • Cheetah
  • Giraffe
  • Gorilla
  • Indian rhino
  • Jaguar
  • Lion
  • Orangutan
  • Przewalski's horse
  • Sable antelope
  • Sumatran tiger
  • Snow leopard
  • Tree kangaroo
  • Vancouver Island marmot
  • Veiled chameleon
  • White rhino
  • Wood bison
  • Wolf
  • Zebra

Endocrinology - Research Projects

Basic research is an important component of any reproductive physiology laboratory. Acquisition of species baseline levels of reproductive and stress hormones is instrumental for diagnosing reproductive status and health. The knowledge that is gained from captive populations can be used to assist animals in the wild.