Myanmar Timber Elephant Project

Latest Elephant Project paper by Martin Seltmann et al. published in Animals

January 9, 2020

Faecal Glucocorticoid Metabolites and H/L Ratio are Related Markers of Stress in Semi-Captive Asian Timber Elephants

Animals are kept in captivity for various reasons worldwide. Throughout its range countries, the Asian elephant is used for various purposes, with a significant proportion of the remaining population working as draft and transport animals in the timber industry. However, captivity can also lead to compromises in welfare that need to be quantified for successful intervention. A key way of assessing an animal’s well-being in wildlife and zoo biology is to measure its stress. Previous studies have found positive, negative, or no relationship between two commonly used measures of stress: stress hormones and the ratio of two types of white blood cells—heterophils to lymphocytes. Our study is one of the first to show a positive and consistent link between these two measures in semi-captive Asian elephants from Myanmar, irrespective of sex, age, or environmental context. Our results show that using the heterophil/lymphocyte ratio from blood smears on-site may offer a potentially cheaper and faster way to determine stress than measuring faecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in the laboratory.