Friday, 18 August 2017

Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress

By Siva Parameswaran
BBC Tamil Service

17 August 2017 


"Collecting fresh faecal samples is not as easy as it may sound," says researcher Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel.

But her efforts have helped scientists in India devise a unique, non-invasive way to monitor the physiological health of wild elephants.

The key has been freeze-drying dung in the field to preserve the elephant's hormones.

As a result, scientists found stress levels in females were more conspicuous than in male elephants.

Over five years, Sanjeeta and her colleagues collected more than 300 samples from 261 elephants in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats area.

She explained her technique: "I used to hide and observe till the elephant defecated and moved away."

She told the BBC: "These samples mean a lot to me."
Ethical approach

The aim of the research was to evaluate the influence of the elephants' body condition on glucocorticoid metabolites.

Animals such as elephants are subjected to various stressors in their lives, with factors including threats from predators, food shortages, drought and illness.

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