In 2005, Perth Zoo opened a unit dedicated to research and development in the field of reproductive biology of threatened species.
The Perth Zoo Reproductive Biology Unit (RBU) has been modelled on successful equivalents at London Zoo, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and San Diego Zoo.
The RBU aims to contribute new findings, develop new procedures, understand reproductive disease, maximise breeding conditions and effectively increase the ability for zoos around the world to achieve breeding success in captive populations. The RBU links with research institutions world-wide to attract key collaborations and grant funding allowing the Zoo’s research activities to grow.
Perth Zoo’s work in the research and breeding of native species for release into the wild has been recognised nationally. The RBU expands on the work of the Native Species Breeding Program (which focuses on threatened Western Australian species) to include other Australian species. The RBU also aims to contribute just as significantly to the international body of knowledge about reproductive processes of threatened non-native (exotic) species.
Staff and students working in the RBU will focus on research in the following areas:
Study of sperm biology – this ranges from the simple description of spermatogenic events in species through light or electron microscopy, to the investigation of freezing techniques to enable sperm to be stored for future use.
Examination of oestrus cycles – the non-invasive monitoring of hormones in faeces can be used to determine accurately the reproductive cycle of a female. This knowledge can be used, in conjunction with behavioural observations, to predict the optimal time to pair animals to secure a successful mating.
Establishment of a Genome Resource Bank – deceased animals can have their genetic material preserved by the collection and freezing of gonadal tissue and cultured skin fibroblasts.