A Window into Well-Being

Animals can’t tell us how they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean we’re incapable of listening. From day-to-day observations to high-tech tools, zoo experts have a variety of ways to monitor the health of species here and in the wild.

Among the best windows into wild well-being are hormones. By measuring reproductive and stress hormones over time, zoo researchers can chart pregnancies, reproductive cycles and even how animals react to changes in their environment. Even better, most hormone measurements can be gathered from feces, a resource that’s readily available and one that doesn’t disturb the “donor” when collected.

The welfare of African wild dogs at Lincoln Park Zoo benefits from the research of the zoo's resident endocrinologists.

Analyzing hormones extracted from fecal samples helps the zoo assess stress levels in its African wild dog pack at Regenstein African Journey.

Lincoln Park Zoo is a leader in wildlife endocrinology—the science of animal hormones. Every year researchers with the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology process 10,000 samples from more than 50 species.

At the zoo, endocrinologists partner with animal caregivers to track how Regenstein Macaque Forest construction affects the nearby African wild dog pack or whether Sichuan takins are seasonal breeders. In the wild, they study how conservation and stress levels connect for species ranging from Rwanda’s mountain gorillas to black rhinos in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park.

This week, our endocrinology experts have been joined by peers throughout the globe for the Fourth Annual International Society of Wildlife Endocrinologists Conference. More than 80 participants from 12 countries have gathered in Chicago to share the latest findings in their field. Since Monday they’ve discussed topics ranging from detecting pregnancy in big cats to using saliva to measure stress in dromedary camels.

We’re proud to host these scientists. Lincoln Park Zoo is committed to animal conservation and care, and giving experts a place to share their latest findings is a sure way to advance it.

Kevin Bell

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