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Ultrasonographic and laparoscopic evaluation of the reproductive tract in older captive female cheetahs (Acinonoyx jubatus)

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(Assessing the value of transabdominal ultrasound in monitoring the reproductive status of cheetahs).

In order to manage the reproduction of a population of animals, it is very useful to be able to determine where the females are in terms of their breeding cycle. When it comes to cheetahs, there are a number of non-invasive, field-friendly ways of doing this, including measuring hormone levels, looking at cells taken from the reproductive tract, and ultrasound.
Unlike the other two methods, transabdominal diagnostic ultrasound (where the animal is scanned through the abdominal wall) has the advantage in that there is no need to wait for results from a laboratory after sampling. This meaning that management decisions can be made and applied in the field, at the same time as in the field at the time of diagnosis, without requiring subsequent immobilizations. The use of this technique in cheetahs, however, has not until this point been scientifically assessed and documented.

Recent legislation in Namibia requiring surgical sterilization of female cheetahs in captivity provided a unique opportunity to assess the value of transabdominal ultrasound observations of the reproductive tract of female. Twenty-one cheetahs housed at two facilities (one of them The AfriCat Foundation and the other, CCF) were surgically sterilized using laparoscopic surgery. Researchers were able to first examine the reproductive tract using transabdominal ultrasound, and then actually look at the same organs through a laparoscope. In addition blood was collected for hormonal level analysis and cells were collected for examination under the microscope. In this way it was possible for the researchers to compare what they were seeing via ultrasound, with the information other methods of assessment were giving them with respect to each cheetah’s reproductive status.

The researchers were able to show, with detailed descriptions of the appropriate structures observed, that it is possible to accurately determine reproductive activity in female cheetahs using transabdominal ultrasound.


Ultrasonographic and laparoscopic evaluation of the reproductive tract in older captive female cheetahs. Full research report. (PDF)


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