Missing or altered components of the social system or environment of giant river otters (GRO) could confound our ability to maintain a sustainable captive population. We also know very little about the reproductive biology of GRO.
We are monitoring progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone to determine reproductive seasonality and characteristics of the female estrous cycle, pseudopregnancy, and pregnancy in captive GRO. Average concentrations and significant elevations of fecal cortisol, which can indicate a possible stress response, also will be assessed. Evaluations of captive GRO management and behavior, including sexual and parental behaviors, scent-marking, territory patrolling, grooming, and vocalizations, are under way. Behavioral repertoires or environmental situations that are consistently associated with reduced reproductive success or elevated cortisol concentrations will be described. Our collaborators for this study are Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Dallas World Aquarium, Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Philadelphia Zoo, Zoo Miami, Chester Zoo (U.K.), and Chestnut Centre Conservation and Wildlife Park (U.K.).
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