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Developing Tools For Conservation Biology

Today, almost 17,000 species are threatened with extinction. This number encompasses only those species that are assessed and well studied. Endangered Species International estimates there are 10 million species awaiting discovery as humans destroy natural ecosystems and habitats. The number of species that are severely threatened will likely surpass today’s 17,000 estimate.

Conservation biology is the study of the processes that allow for the conservation and recovery of biological diversity in its natural state through applied research, education, planning, and community service. Biologists in this field assess the effects that changes in natural habitat have on genetic, stress-related, reproductive, and metabolic mechanisms in threatened species. Conservation biology has a major impact on the supplementation and reintroduction of species bred in captivity.

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) are on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. A problem with breeding pandas is assessing when they are pregnant as they are one of many species that exhibit a process called pseudocyesis or pseudopregnancy.

Pseudopregnancy is defined as a display of maternal behavior combined with the physical signs of pregnancy following estrus (“heat”) in a female despite no fertilization having taken place. One of the biological markers of fertilization is the production of the pregnancy hormone, progesterone. Some species will produce progesterone in a pseudopregnancy.

In an effort to help wildlife conservationists, Arbor Assays recently developed a new tool – our Progesterone Metabolite ELISA kit, K068-H1/H5. During the recent International Society for Wildlife Endocrinology conference at Kruger National Park in South Africa, the development and scientific results based upon this assay were presented. The assay uses a polyclonal antibody developed in-house to measure a range of progesterone metabolites. This new kit is especially well-suited to monitor reproductive status in animals that often display characteristics of pseudopregnancy. The poster entitled “Development of a new progesterone metabolite EIA for non-invasive reproductive monitoring” can be viewed here.

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