Fresh elephants’ dung reveals stress levels in wild Asian elephants

Recent research findings by a CES Ph.D. student Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel, Prof. Polani B Seshagiri (MRDG, IISc) and Prof. Raman Sukumar (CES, IISc) show that the stress levels and body condition of elephants varied between seasons. Wild Asian elephants were showed ‘poor’ body condition and were found to be ‘more’ stressed during resource-deficient periods. This pattern was more conspicuous in female Asian elephants.

Various ecological and human factors determine the stress response in wild Asian elephants. Stress can be measured by the secretions of stress hormones called glucocorticoids.  Glucocorticoids, in general, help in mobilizing the energy when animals face any adverse situations. However, the prolonged exposure to any stressful events could elevate the levels of glucocorticoids and deteriorate the animals’ health. Researchers measured these chemicals in the dung samples to infer stress response in elephants.

This is a first study to examine the association between body condition, seasonality and stress response in wild Asian elephants.

This study was published in Conservation Physiology:  https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/cox039

This study has been featured in prominent media outlets:

BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-40950303

The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/elephant-dung-shows-stress-levels/article19435695.ece