Reproductive soundness of captive southern and northern white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum simum, C.s. cottoni): evaluation of male genital tract morphology and semen quality before and after cryopreservation.
White rhinoceroses suffer from a low rate of reproduction in captivity. This study examines the role of male reproductive function as a contributing factor. We used ultrasonography to image accessory sex glands, testis and epididymis. Electroejaculation provided 36 ejaculates from 21 rhinoceroses. Based on the percentage of progressively motile spermatozoa, semen was categorized in three groups, high (I: >75%), intermediate (II: 50-70%) or low (III: <50%) quality. Only 52% of the males showed high semen quality. Ejaculates in the high motility category also had the highest proportion of morphologically intact spermatozoa. Both semen parameters, sperm motility and morphology, were found to positively correlate with size of the accessory sex glands. The semen category was associated with group size suggesting that the social status influenced functional reproductive parameters. Change of territorial status (n = 1) improved semen quality. Testicular fibrosis was characterized as a sign of reproductive ageing in all males older than 15 years of age (n = 13); although, this ageing process did not notably affect semen parameters. Furthermore, for the benefit of assisted-reproduction and genetic banking programs protocols for the storage of cooled semen and the cryopreservation of spermatozoa were designed using different cryodiluents. This report provides basic data for the evaluation of reproductive components and of breeding management in male rhinoceros. Our results indicate that low rate of reproduction in captivity can be attributed to reduced male reproductive fitness. Changes in management of white rhinoceroses may positively affect male reproductive function.
Animals Cold Temperature Cryopreservation/veterinary Female Genitalia, Male/anatomy & histology* Male Perissodactyla/anatomy & histology* Perissodactyla/physiology* Reproduction* Semen/physiology* Semen Preservation/methods Semen Preservation/veterinary* Sperm Motility Tissue and Organ Harvesting/methods Tissue and Organ Harvesting/veterinary Ultrasonography/veterinary