Breeding rhinos in captivity has been a challenge to say the least. With the demise of the rhino in the wild, the role of zoos and sanctuaries has become primarily conservation, i.e breeding. But scientists may now have the solution: dung.
New scientific methodology allows researchers to study individuals’ genetics as well as their reproductive cycles from the hormones in the dung. This allows them to more accurately pinpoint the best times to breed them.
Although this success comes from the unglamorous job of analyzing and weighing dung, day in and day out, it seems it has paid off tenfold. Dr. Sue Walker, from the Black Rhino Endocrinology Program, says “These populations are vital as an insurance policy against further declines in the wild, and the more successful the population, both in terms of growth rates and maintaining the genetic diversity by making sure all individuals breed, the better that insurance policy can be.”
The news could not have come at a more pivotal time, with 394 rhino already poached in 2013, and the projection at over 800 when the year is up. The techniques are being shared and applied at zoos throughout the world.