CZAAWE Resource Article

Body weight as an effective tool for determination of onset of puberty in captive female Nile hippopotami (Hippopotamus amphibious)
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
Abstract 10.1002/zoo.20076.abs Profiles of fecal progestogens and body weight from the early juvenile to the peri-pubertal period are presented for eight captive female Nile hippopotami housed at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida. Average growth rate in juveniles was 0.85±0.03 kg/day (r2=0.913). Progestogen elevations were detectable as early as 16.8 months of age, and elevations indicative of ovulation and luteal activity were identified in seven of eight females by 30.3±1.6 months of age and body weight of 829.3±49.4 kg. Progestogen patterns before the onset of puberty were highly variable within and between females. Some females remained at baseline concentrations, whereas in others the progestogen pattern was characterized by infrequent, transient elevations of low amplitude and shortened duration. Four females were monitored through onset of puberty, conception, and first pregnancy. Onset of puberty was defined as the first luteal phase from the series of consecutive ovarian cycles culminating in conception and was observed at 34.9±2.2 months of age and 963.6±39.4 kg, however, the quality and number of cycles varied among females before conception. Females conceived between 2.7–3.9 years of age after attaining an approximate threshold body weight of 1,000 kg (1,070.5±39.5 kg). The age at first conception in captivity occurs at a younger age than has been reported for wild populations. Body weight may be an effective tool for approximating the state of reproductive maturity and facilitate collection management in zoos. Zoo Biol. 0:1–13, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.