Non-Invasive Reproductive Hormone Monitoring in the Endangered Pygmy Hog ( Porcula salvania)

Animals (Basel). 2021 May 6;11(5):1324. doi: 10.3390/ani11051324.

Abstract

The pygmy hog (Porcula salvania), until recently was classified as a critically endangered suid facing the threat of extinction due to habitat degradation. Efforts are being made to protect the pygmy hog from extinction and breed them in captivity under the Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP). However, very little information is available on the reproductive physiology of pygmy hogs. Therefore, the present study aims to standardize enzyme immunoassays (EIAs) for monitoring pregnancy and reproductive status using progesterone and testosterone metabolites. A total of 785 fecal samples were collected from five females and two males over a period of one year from the PHCP Research and Breeding Centre, Guwahati, Assam. High-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis revealed the presence of immunoreactive progesterone and testosterone metabolites in feces. Mating was observed in all five females, and four of them gave birth successfully. We were able to detect pregnancy using fecal progesterone metabolites. The mean gestation period, based on mating and parturition, was estimated to be 153.25 days from the four females studied. The breeding center recorded 172 births between 1996 and 2000 and found strong seasonal patterns in the birth rate, with most of the births occurring between May and June. In the males, fecal testosterone metabolites were significantly higher in the breeding season than in the non-breeding season. This is the first study on the subject and will help with future breeding programs in other captive breeding centers and with reproductive monitoring of reintroduced populations.

Keywords: Assam; Porcula salvania; fecal hormone; pregnancy detection; progesterone; pygmy hog; testosterone.