Rhino Ultrasound

1 May 2015

Rhino reproductive health assessment.

On 28th of April, Lucy, one of Blair Drummond Safari Parks' four southern white rhinos, underwent a sedation so that she could be examined via ultrasound to assess her reproductive health. Lucy came to Blair Drummond in 2012 to join their already established breeding group, however, Graham, the mature bull, and her have not shown any interest in each other so veterinary assessment was required to see if there were any underlying problems. Performing an ultrasound on a two tonne rhino is not the simplest of procedures. Due to their physiology and size ultrasound scans of the uterus and ovaries have to be taken internally with access through the rectum. This obviously requires the rhino to remain still during the procedure to allow it to be undertaken successfully and for the safety of the veterinarians.

Lucy was born in 2002 at West Midlands Safari Park and moved to Blair Drummond Safari Park on the recommendations of the studbook keeper, who is in charge of coordinating the endangered species breeding programme. The programme’s goal is to ensure a healthy and genetically diverse population of white rhino to safe guard them from extinction in the future. Blair Drummond Safari Park has enjoyed great success with breeding at their facility with the birth of four white rhinos within the last 8 years. The most recent, Bruce, was born in October last year and named by the keepers to commemorate the battle of Bannockburn.

Working closely with the vet, the large mammals team leader, Chris Lucas said

“it is vitally important that we do everything we can to get Lucy breeding naturally as soon as possible. She is getting to a point in her life where if she does not start having calves within the next couple of years then she never will. If that happens it will mean that Lucy will still need to be looked after for the next 30 or so years, but will not be contributing towards the European breeding program”.

Paddy Day, of Struthers and Scott veterinary practise, who performed the operation added:

"We carried out a full reproductive scan, there were no obvious problems which suggests her ovaries are not cycling and producing eggs, this means if she was mated, she wouldn't take. As she is not cycling she is not giving many signs to the male, which means he is disinterested. We now need to investigate what treatment is best for her, we have a small window in which to make a decision, whether she stays in the collection and we could look at potential hormone treatment, or whether she moves to another collection and tries with a different male".