We had the pleasure of collaborating with the University of Queensland on this research project. Our collaborative work was published in the Journal of Zoo Biology, in September 2014.
To read the full article, please click here.
Also available online at DOI: 10.1002/zoo.21171
We propose that regular urine samples can be used to monitor and characterize the reproductive cycle of the wombat, but this approach has never before been attempted in a marsupial.
We conducted a three stage conditioning process for non-invasive urine collection in captive female wombats, which included (1) initial habituation and observation of urination patterns; (2) classical association of a stimulus with urination and (3) urine collection with the classically-conditioned stimulus. Four of the five female wombats selected for this trial were successfully conditioned for urine collection.
During stage 2, the animals urinated in response to tactile stimulation 96 times from 208 attempts (46%). In stage 3, urine was successfully collected 399 times from 485 attempts (82%), with the majority of samples being collected in the morning (280/388). Hand-raised females that were previously conditioned for toileting purposes as pouch young responded more rapidly to the stimulus than juvenile females with no prior conditioning.
This study is the first description of a successful method of urine collection by classical conditioning in a marsupial.