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Non-Invasive Determination of Annual Fecal Cortisol, Androstenedione, and Testosterone Variations in a Herd of  Male Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) and Their Relation to Some Climatic Variables

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The measurement of stress and reproductive hormones in wild animal species by non-invasive methods is of special interest. To assess whether the adrenal and gonadal hormones show annual variations in male Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and to evaluate whether there is any influence of climatic variables on hormonal secretion, fecal samples were taken from a herd of 7 Asian elephants over a 14-month period to subsequently determine the concentrations of testosterone (T), androstenedione (A4), and cortisol (C) by a validated immunoassay technique. Data referring to three climatic variables in the place and period of study were collected, namely monthly mean values of temperature, humidity and rainfall. Levels of T and A4 showed two major increases in July (T: 1088.35 ± 131.04 ng/g; A4: 480.40 ± 50.86 ng/g) and October (T: 825.09 ± 31.60 ng/g; A4: 319.96 ± 32.69 ng/g) (p < 0.05). Our results show a secretion of fecal androgens dependent on temperature (T and A4), and humidity (T). Male musth was detected during the initial increases of T and A4 levels. The highest concentrations of C were observed in September (156.67 ± 60.89 ng/g) (p < 0.05), probably due to the stressful fights that occurred during the musth period. The observed results of the fecal levels of T, A4 and C were similar to those obtained by invasive methods. In conclusion, fecal secretion of the three hormones in these captive male Asian elephants showed variations related in some cases to different weather factors.
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de Andrés PJ, Cáceres S, Crespo B, Silván G, Illera JC. Non-Invasive Determination of Annual Fecal Cortisol, Androstenedione, and Testosterone Variations in a Herd of Male Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) and Their Relation to Some Climatic Variables. Animals (Basel). 2021 Sep 17;11(9):2723. doi: 10.3390/ani11092723. PMID: 34573690; PMCID: PMC8467623.
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