Serum concentrations of oestradiol and progesterone and frequency of sexual behaviour during the normal oestrous cycle in the snow leopard (Panthera uncia)

in Reproduction

Serum oestradiol and progesterone concentrations were measured at weekly intervals for six months, and correlated with daily behavioural observations in two adult female snow leopards (Panthera uncia). Three oestradiol peaks (>21 pg ml−1; interval 3.6 weeks) were identified in a snow leopardess housed alone (two more were probably missed because of the weekly sampling schedule), and three oestradiol peaks were identified in a snow leopardess housed with a male as a breeding pair (interval 6 weeks). Daily frequencies of feline reproductive behaviour averaged 1.77 observations per observation period during weeks of high oestradiol and 0.62 during weeks of low oestradiol. Progesterone concentrations did not rise above baseline values (< 2 ng ml−1) in the isolated animal, but 6 weeks of high progesterone concentrations 4.9–38.8 ng ml−1) was recorded in the paired snow leopardess following mating. No offspring were produced. Snow leopards were observed daily for an additional 4.5 years. Sexual behaviour peaks could be clearly identified from December through April, and average daily sexual behaviour scores were higher during these months than during the rest of the year. Intervals between sexual behaviour peaks for the isolated snow leopardess averaged 3.03 weeks. The sexual behaviour of the paired snow leopards decreased for 8–9 weeks following mating when no offspring were produced, and decreased for 13 weeks in one year when a single cub was born.

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