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Vets carry out rhino ultrasound

A two-tonne rhino struggling to mate with her partner has undergone a delicate ultrasound with a team of vets at a safari park.

Lucy, the southern white rhino, moved to Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling in 2012 and was paired to mate with mature bull Graham as part of an endangered species breeding program.

But the pair have shown little interest in each other, so park bosses brought in a team of vets to investigate.

Lucy was sedated but vets had to keep her upright by strapping her to a metal frame so that they could take scans of her uterus and ovaries.

The size and thickness of the rhino’s skin meant instruments had to be inserted inside the animal to produce an accurate scan.

The team now believe her ovaries are not producing eggs and vets are now looking at potential hormone treatments or moving Lucy to another wildlife park.

Paddy Day, of Struthers and Scott veterinary practice, led the operation.

He said: “We carried out a full reproductive scan, there were no obvious problems which suggests her ovaries are not cycling and producing eggs, this means if she was mated, she wouldn’t take.

“As she is not cycling she is not giving many signs to the male, which means he is disinterested.

“We now need to investigate what treatment is best for her, we have a small window in which to make a decision, whether she stays in the collection and we could look at potential hormone treatment, or whether she moves to another collection and tries with a different male.”

Lucy was born in 2002 at West Midlands Safari Park and moved to Blair Drummond Safari Park on the recommendations of a studbook keeper in charge of co-ordinating the endangered species breeding programme for rhinos.

In the last eight years, four rhino calves have been born at Blair Drummond.

The most recent was born last year and was named Bruce after Robert the Bruce and the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Chris Lucas, the large mammals team leader at the safari park, said: “It is vitally important that we do everything we can to get Lucy breeding naturally as soon as possible.

“She is getting to a point in her life where if she does not start having calves within the next couple of years then she never will.”