Koester, Diana C., Freeman, Elizabeth W., Brown, Janine L., Wildt, David E., Terrell, Kimberly A., Franklin, Ashley D., and Crosier, Adrienne E. 2015. "Motile Sperm Output by Male Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) Managed Ex Situ Is Influenced by Public Exposure and Number of Care-Givers." PloS One 10 (9):1-21. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0135847
The collective cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) population in zoological institutions has never been self-sustaining because of challenges in natural reproduction. A retrospective analysis of North American zoo-breeding records has revealed that >90% of litters produced since 2003 occurred in facilities 'off-display' from the public. We examined seminal, endocrine, and behavioral traits of 29 adult male cheetahs that were: 1) managed in public exhibit or off-display facilities; 2) maintained by different numbers of cheetah-specific care-givers; and 3) living adjacent to varying numbers of adult conspecifics. Cheetahs housed off-display produced more total motile sperm/ejaculate (P = 0.04) than on-exhibit males. This finding was mirrored in our laboratory's historical records where two-fold more total motile sperm (P 3 care-givers. Exposure to high numbers of conspecifics within the same institution did not impact (P > 0.05) seminal traits, and presence of the public, care-giver number, or animals/facility had no influence (P > 0.05) on androgen or glucocorticoid excretion or other behavioral metrics. Findings indicate that male cheetahs are sensitive to general public exposure and too many care-givers, resulting in compromised motile sperm output/ejaculate with mechanism of action unrelated to altered androgen or glucocorticoid excretion.