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Stress in adult female elephants influenced by number of calves

Date: 05 December 2019 Tags: Biodiversity

Issue

Stress in adult female Asian elephants is directly proportional to the number of calves and inversely proportional to the number of adult females in a herd, according to a study by scientists of IISc.

 

Background

The study states that physiological stress on female elephants is significantly influenced by the number of calves and adult females present in the herd, seasonality, and lactational status.

 

Details

  • With a higher number of calves, there’s greater danger of predation, so female elephants have to be more vigilant.

  • A higher number of female elephants in a herd may mean better social bonds, as the presence of experienced adult females or the matriarch results in more effective competitive and defence behaviours to perceived threats.

  • The scientists recorded stress in female elephants by measuring their faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM). Glucocorticoids are hormones secreted by mammals during periods of stress.

  • The fGCM levels were negatively correlated with the number of adult females (herd size) and positively correlated with the number of calves in a herd and the active lactational status of an adult female.

  • The fGCM levels of adult female elephants were higher during the dry season (February to May) than the wet season (August to December).

  • Another observation made in the study was that the levels of fGCM were higher in lactating females than in non-lactating females.

  • Insights from such assessments could be used to evaluate the stress in elephants that are involved in direct conflict with humans to take steps for mitigating conflicts.

  • Management of elephant-human conflicts, such as through selective capture of elephants from herds or splitting herds through chase, could potentially increase stress levels directly as well as through disruption in the social structure of the herd.

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