Publications by authors named "Janine L Brown"

136 Publications

Epigenetic clock and methylation studies in elephants.

Aging Cell 2021 Jul 12;20(7):e13414. Epub 2021 Jun 12.

Department of Biostatistics, Fielding School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Age-associated DNA-methylation profiles have been used successfully to develop highly accurate biomarkers of age ("epigenetic clocks") in humans, mice, dogs, and other species. Here we present epigenetic clocks for African and Asian elephants. These clocks were developed using novel DNA methylation profiles of 140 elephant blood samples of known age, at loci that are highly conserved between mammalian species, using a custom Infinium array (HorvathMammalMethylChip40). We present epigenetic clocks for Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), African elephants (Loxodonta africana), and both elephant species combined. Two additional human-elephant clocks were constructed by combining human and elephant samples. Epigenome-wide association studies identified elephant age-related CpGs and their proximal genes. The products of these genes play important roles in cellular differentiation, organismal development, metabolism, and circadian rhythms. Intracellular events observed to change with age included the methylation of bivalent chromatin domains, and targets of polycomb repressive complexes. These readily available epigenetic clocks can be used for elephant conservation efforts where accurate estimates of age are needed to predict demographic trends.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/acel.13414DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8282242PMC
July 2021

Genetic diversity in a unique population of dugong (Dugong dugon) along the sea coasts of Thailand.

Sci Rep 2021 Jun 2;11(1):11624. Epub 2021 Jun 2.

Animal Bone and Joint Research Laboratory, Department of Veterinary Biosciences and Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, 50100, Thailand.

Dugong (Dugong dugon) populations have been shrinking globally, due in large part to habitat fragmentation, degradation and ocean pollution, and today are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. Thus, determining genetic diversity in the remaining populations is essential for conservation planning and protection. In this study, measures of inter-simple sequence repeat (ISSR) markers and mtDNA D-loop typing were used to evaluate the genetic diversity of 118 dugongs from skin samples of deceased dugongs collected in Thai waters over a 29-year period. Thirteen ISSR primers revealed that dugongs from the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand exhibited more genetic variation in the first 12 years of the study (1990-2002) compared to the last decade (2009-2019). Dugongs from the Andaman Sea, Trang, Satun and some areas of Krabi province exhibited greater diversity compared to other coastal regions of Thailand. Eleven haplotypes were identified, and when compared to other parts of the world (235 sequences obtained from NCBI), five clades were apparent from a total 353 sequences. Moreover, dugongs from the Andaman Sea were genetically distinct, with a separate haplotype belonging to two clades found only in Thai waters that separated from other groups around 1.2 million years ago. Genetic diversity of dugongs in present times was less than that of past decades, likely due to increased population fragmentation. Because dugongs are difficult to keep and breed in captivity, improved in situ conservation actions are needed to sustain genetically healthy wild populations, and in particular, the specific genetic group found only in the Andaman Sea.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-90947-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8172547PMC
June 2021

Predictors of helminth parasite infection in female chacma baboons ().

Int J Parasitol Parasites Wildl 2021 Apr 26;14:308-320. Epub 2021 Mar 26.

Department of Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke University, Durham, NC, 27710, USA.

Helminth parasite infection can impose major consequences on host fitness. Several factors, including individual characteristics of hosts, environmental conditions, and patterns of coinfection, are thought to drive variation in parasite risk. Here, we report on four key drivers of parasite infection-phase of reproduction, steroid hormone profiles, rainfall, and patterns of coinfection-in a population of wild female chacma baboons () in South Africa. We collected data on reproductive state and hormone profiles over a 3-year span, and quantified helminth parasite burdens in 2955 fecal samples from 24 female baboons. On a host level, we found that baboons are sensitive to parasite infection during the costliest phases of the reproductive cycle: pregnant females harbored higher intensities of eggs than cycling and lactating females; lactating and cycling females had a higher probability of infection than pregnant females; and cycling females exhibited lower egg counts than pregnant and lactating females. Steroid hormones were associated with both immunoenhancing and immunosuppressive properties: females with high glucocorticoid concentrations exhibited high intensities of eggs but were at low risk of infection; females with high estrogen and progestagen concentrations exhibited high helminth parasite richness; and females with high progestagen concentrations were at high risk of infection but exhibited low egg counts. We observed an interaction between host reproductive state and progestagen concentrations in infection intensity of : pregnant females exhibited higher intensities and non-pregnant females exhibited lower intensities of eggs with increasing progestagen concentrations. At a population level, rainfall patterns were dominant drivers of parasite risk. Lastly, helminth parasites exhibited positive covariance, suggesting that infection probability increases if a host already harbors one or more parasite taxa. Together, our results provide a holistic perspective of factors that shape variation in parasite risk in a wild population of animals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijppaw.2021.03.012DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8056146PMC
April 2021

Testing lipid markers as predictors of all-cause morbidity, cardiac disease, and mortality risk in captive western lowland gorillas ().

Primate Biol 2020 17;7(2):41-59. Epub 2020 Dec 17.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 1500 Remount Rd., Front Royal, VA 22630, USA.

Great apes and humans develop many of the same health conditions, including cardiac disease as a leading cause of death. In humans, lipid markers are strong predictors of morbidity and mortality risk. To determine if they similarly predict risk in gorillas, we measured five serum lipid markers and calculated three lipoprotein ratios from zoo-housed western lowland gorillas (aged 6-52 years, , subset with routine immobilizations only: ): total cholesterol (TC), triglycerides (TGs), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), apolipoprotein A1 (apoA1), , , and . We examined each in relation to age and sex, then analyzed whether they predicted all-cause morbidity, cardiac disease, and mortality using generalized linear models (GLMs). Older age was significantly associated with higher TG, , , and , and lower HDL and apoA1. With all ages combined, compared to females, males had significantly lower TG, , , and , and higher HDL. Using GLMs, age, sex, and lower were significant predictors of all-cause morbidity; this is consistent with research demonstrating lower LDL in humans with arthritis, which was the second most prevalent condition in this sample. In contrast to humans, lipid markers were not better predictors of cardiac disease and mortality risk in gorillas, with cardiac disease best predicted by age and sex alone, and mortality risk only by age. Similar results were observed when multimodel inference was used as an alternative analysis strategy, suggesting it can be used in place of or in addition to traditional methods for predicting risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/pb-7-41-2020DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7852406PMC
December 2020

Adiposity, reproductive and metabolic health, and activity levels in zoo Asian elephant ().

J Exp Biol 2021 01 26;224(Pt 2). Epub 2021 Jan 26.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA.

Many captive Asian elephant populations are not self-sustaining, possibly due in part to obesity-related health and reproductive issues. This study investigated relationships between estimated body composition and metabolic function, inflammatory markers, ovarian activity (females only) and physical activity levels in 44 Asian elephants (=35 females, =9 males). Deuterium dilution was used to measure total body water from which fat mass (FM) and fat-free mass (FFM) could be derived to estimate body composition. Serum was analyzed for progestagens and estradiol (females only), deuterium, glucose, insulin and amyloid A. Physical activity was assessed by an accelerometer placed on the elephant's front leg for at least 2 days. Relative fat mass (RFM) - the amount of fat relative to body mass - was calculated to take differences in body size between elephants into consideration. Body fat percentage ranged from 2.01% to 24.59%. Male elephants were heavier (=0.043), with more FFM (=0.049), but not FM (>0.999), than females. For all elephants, estimated RFM (=0.45, =0.004) was positively correlated with insulin. Distance walked was negatively correlated with age (=-0.46, =0.007). When adjusted for FFM and age (<0.001), non-cycling females had less fat compared with cycling females, such that for every 100 kg increase in FM, the odds of cycling were 3 times higher (<0.001). More work is needed to determine what an unhealthy amount of fat is for elephants; however, our results suggest higher adiposity may contribute to metabolic perturbations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1242/jeb.219543DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7847275PMC
January 2021

Successful treatment of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus infection in an Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) calf by oral acyclovir medication: Case report.

J Vet Med Sci 2021 Jan 25;83(1):125-129. Epub 2020 Nov 25.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, 155, Mae Hia, Muang, Chiang Mai, 50100, Thailand.

Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) is a major cause of death in Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) calves. A 2-year, 11-month-old female, captive Asian elephant presented with facial edema and a mild fever. Blood samples were collected and showed EEHV1A positivity with a high viral load by real time PCR. Heterophil toxicity also was reported for the first time in this case. The calf was treated orally with acyclovir, 45 mg/kg tid for 28 days, which reduced the EEHV1A viral load to undetectable levels within 9 days and the calf survived. A successful outcome with oral acyclovir administration provides another and affordable option to treat EEHV hemorrhagic disease in Asian elephants, and one that is easier to administer in untrained calves.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1292/jvms.20-0375DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7870404PMC
January 2021

Effects of physiological changes and social life events on adrenal glucocorticoid activity in female zoo-housed Asian elephants (Elephas maximus).

PLoS One 2020 6;15(11):e0241910. Epub 2020 Nov 6.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Front Royal, Virginia, United States of America.

Ensuring good health and welfare is an increasingly important consideration for conservation of endangered species and includes breeding of individuals managed under human care. Understanding how factors in the captive environment affect individual animal wellbeing can be aided by long-term monitoring of biological functioning. This study involved longitudinal assessments (4 to 28 years) of reproductive and adrenal hormones in zoo-housed female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) (age range 4 to ~71 years) to elucidate patterns in adrenal glucocorticoid (GC) activity in association with reproductive and demographic factors, and examine individual response to major social changes. Concentrations of serum and urinary cortisol covaried more consistently with physiological changes (ovarian cycle phase, puberty, pregnancy, lactational anestrus, and age) than with social life events (births, deaths, and facility transfers). Cortisol fluctuated across the ovarian cycle with mean concentrations being higher in the follicular than in the luteal phase, and concentrations were highest in lactational anestrous compared to all other reproductive states. The elephants in this study exhibited substantial individuality in adrenal GC response to major social change, reinforcing the need to assess welfare on an individual basis and to consider factors influencing the impact of perceived stressors, such as social relationships, social support, temperament, and life history. Outcomes from this study deepen our understanding of Asian elephant physiology and highlight the importance of taking intrinsic patterns of hormone secretion into account when evaluating the impact of external factors. Finally, a better understanding of the impact of social change and resiliency in response to real and perceived stressors allows us to improve social management to enhance welfare in both captive settings and free-ranging environments.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0241910PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7647113PMC
January 2021

Utilizing Camera Traps, Closed Circuit Cameras and Behavior Observation Software to Monitor Activity Budgets, Habitat Use, and Social Interactions of Zoo-Housed Asian Elephants ().

Animals (Basel) 2020 Nov 3;10(11). Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian's Conservation Biology Institute, 1500 Remount Rd., Front Royal, VA 22630, USA.

Accredited zoos and aquariums value superior animal husbandry and strive to ensure that the physical, psychological, and social needs of animals are met. In North America, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) relies on species-specific standards to ensure facilities provide the best care for collection animals. The AZA also makes explicit recommendations for long-term monitoring of welfare. Data collected through behavioral observations can be used to modify management as animals respond over time to social, environmental, or physical changes. In long-lived, social species like elephants, it is particularly important to document herd dynamics, calf development, geriatric health, and social bonds throughout their lifetimes. The Smithsonian's National Zoological Park housed one male and six female Asian elephants in dynamic social groupings. Behavioral observations were conducted on all elephants for two years using two methods involving ZooMonitor, closed circuit cameras, and camera traps. The goal was to compare how these two methods function to provide individual activity budgets, habitat use, and social interactions. Methodologies such as these, alone or in combination, have the potential to produce valuable data about potential changes in welfare over time in a zoological setting and can be performed either by staff or volunteers with high reliability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10112026DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7692367PMC
November 2020

Effect of Tourist Activities on Fecal and Salivary Glucocorticoids and Immunoglobulin A in Female Captive Asian Elephants in Thailand.

Animals (Basel) 2020 Oct 21;10(10). Epub 2020 Oct 21.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand.

Asian elephants have been an important part of wildlife ecotourism in Thailand for over two decades. Elephants in tourist camps are exposed to a variety of management styles and daily activities that can potentially affect health and welfare. This study investigated relationships between a novel welfare biomarker, immunoglobulin A (IgA), and daily camp activities, and compared results to glucocorticoid (GC) measures. Often no-riding camps are portrayed as providing better welfare than camps that offer riding. Therefore, we predicted that elephants at no-riding camps would have lower GC and higher IgA concentrations, and a low GC/IgA ratio. Forty-four female elephants from six elephant camps were divided into three groups based on riding activities: saddle-riding, bareback-riding, and no-riding. Fecal and salivary samples were collected monthly for 1 year along with evaluations of body condition, foot health, and wounding. Camp environment and management varied among camps, although the major difference was in riding activities. Concentrations of GCs and IgA varied among the working groups, but not always consistently between sample matrices. Overall fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations were lowest in the saddle-riding group. Only in one bareback-riding camp did the elephants exhibit a potentially positive welfare response with a low GC/IgA ratio over time. Other results varied between the two biomarkers, with considerable variability across camps, suggesting there is more to good welfare than whether elephants participate in riding or not. Several other human-induced stressors, like chaining, ankus use, and limited social opportunities are likely to be impacting well-being and should be considered to ensure management practices meet physical and psychological welfare needs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10101928DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7589861PMC
October 2020

Reproductive performance of captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in large tourist camps in Thailand.

Anim Reprod Sci 2020 Nov 18;222:106606. Epub 2020 Sep 18.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand; Department of Companion Animals and Wildlife Clinics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand. Electronic address:

In Thailand, many elephants are used in tourism, with populations sustained by breeding of animals that are in captive habitats. Even though there are programs to promote breeding, there is not success in all camps. In this study, there was summarization of reproductive performance data of 407 elephants (150 males, 257 females) at seven tourist camps based on 4-21 years of breeding records. Age pyramid structures for elephants varied among camps. Reproductive rates averaged 21.6 ± 6.17% and varied among camps (2.8-45.0%). Based on parity, 77.4% of elephants were nulliparous, 8.2% produced one calf, and 14.3% were multiparous, with there being camp differences. There were 1.10 ± 0.46 (range, 0.03-3.55) births per year, with a total of 19.6 ± 9.3 (1-71) calves per camp. Age at first calving was 19.2 ± 1.1 years (range, 8-40 years), mean inter-birth interval was 4.4 ± 0.2 years (range, 1.8-7.9 years), and average gestation length was 653.9 ± 6.9 days (range, 578-743 days). Rates of abortions/stillbirths averaged 12.4% and ranged from 3.5%-66.7%. There were no obvious differences in management (e.g., number of males, estrous detection methods, work activities) that when evaluated explained the range in breeding success, although lack of male interest in females was a common problem. While informative and useful for designing future studies, results of this study indicate there is a lack of precise breeding records that makes it difficult to evaluate effects of management practices on reproductive performance of captive elephants in Thailand.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anireprosci.2020.106606DOI Listing
November 2020

Serum Health Biomarkers in African and Asian Elephants: Value Ranges and Clinical Values Indicative of the Immune Response.

Animals (Basel) 2020 Sep 27;10(10). Epub 2020 Sep 27.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, 1500 Remount Road, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA.

Serum biomarkers indicative of inflammation and disease can provide useful information regarding host immune processes, responses to treatment and prognosis. The aims of this study were to assess the use of commercially available anti-equine reagents for the quantification of cytokines (tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interferon-gamma (IFN-γ), interleukins (IL) 2, 6, and 10) in African (, n = 125) and Asian (, n = 104) elephants, and alongside previously validated anti-human reagents for acute-phase proteins (serum amyloid A and haptoglobin), calculate species-specific biomarker value ranges. In addition, we used opportunistically collected samples to investigate the concentrations of each biomarker during identified clinical cases of illness or injury, as a first step to understanding what biomarkers may be useful to managing elephant health. Immune biomarkers were each elevated above the calculated species-specific value ranges in at least one clinical case, but due to variability in both clinical and non-clinical samples, only serum amyloid A was significantly higher in clinical compared to non-clinical paired samples, with tendencies for higher TNF-α and IL-10. We also detected increased secretion of serum amyloid A and all five cytokines following routine vaccination of a single Asian elephant, indicating that these biomarkers can be beneficial for studying normal immune processes as well as pathology. This study indicates that assays developed with commercial reagents can be used to quantify health biomarkers in wildlife species and identifies several that warrant further investigation to elucidate immune responses to various pathologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10101756DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7601509PMC
September 2020

Impacts of the season and reproductive status on fecal reproductive and adrenocortical steroid metabolites in zoo Cuban crocodiles (Crocodylus rhombifer).

Zoo Biol 2020 Nov 8;39(6):411-421. Epub 2020 Aug 8.

Department of Reproductive Sciences, Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation and Biology Institute, Front Royal, Virginia.

Conservation strategies for crocodilians often include captive breeding to create stable assurance populations. Evaluating adrenal and gonadal hormone patterns can provide animal managers with data to more effectively monitor animal welfare and reproductive status. This study evaluated the effects of season (breeding, nesting, or off), sex (male and female), and reproductive status of females (egg-laying/housed with a male or non-laying/housed solo) on concentrations of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM), fecal androgen metabolite (FAM), and fecal progestogen metabolite (FPM) in seven Cuban crocodiles, Crocodylus rhombifer, at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park. Overall, seasonal changes in FGM and FPM concentrations were only observed in egg-laying females; FGM and FPM concentrations were both higher during the nesting season compared to the breeding and off seasons. Seasonal changes in FAM concentrations were only observed in males; males had higher FAM concentrations during the breeding and nesting seasons compared to the off season. Future studies investigating the use of fecal hormone metabolites in crocodilians are necessary to understand differences between individuals and species, to further elucidate the interactions between hormones and environmental factors, such as social housing, and to develop long-term datasets for the management of this species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21559DOI Listing
November 2020

Ovarian cyclicity and prolactin status of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in North American zoos may be influenced by life experience and individual temperament.

Horm Behav 2020 09 10;125:104804. Epub 2020 Jul 10.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA, USA.

Hyperprolactinemia is an endocrine disorder associated with infertility in many species, including elephants. In a recent survey of zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), over half of African elephant females (N = 101) were not cycling normally, 30% of which exhibited hyperprolactinemia. We examined whether life experience and temperament predict ovarian cyclicity and circulating prolactin status in individual African elephant females. We hypothesized that, similar to humans, acyclicity and hyperprolactinemia in elephants will be associated with an apprehensive or fearful, anxious temperament, and an increased number of potentially challenging life events (transfers, deaths and births). Ninety-five adult African elephant females housed at 37 AZA institutions were included in this study. Blood samples were collected twice a month for 1 year to determine ovarian cycle (cycling, n = 44; irregular, n = 13; non-cycling, n = 38) and prolactin (normal, n = 44; low; n = 23; high; n = 28) status. Keeper ratings on a 6-point scale were obtained on 32 temperament traits in 85 of these elephants. We determined that giving birth and being exposed to herd mates entering the facility were positively associated with normal ovarian cycle and prolactin profiles. By contrast, age, serum cortisol, and an increased number of herd mates leaving a facility were negatively associated with both. Contrary to our hypothesis, hyperprolactinemia was associated with a popular and caring temperament rating, whereas consistently low prolactin was associated with a fearful, apprehensive temperament. These findings indicate that pituitary-ovarian function may be impacted by life history (cyclicity) and temperament (prolactin), which should be taken into consideration when making management decisions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2020.104804DOI Listing
September 2020

Effects of a recurring late-night event on the behavior and welfare of a population of zoo-housed gorillas.

Zoo Biol 2020 Jul 7;39(4):217-229. Epub 2020 Jun 7.

Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Washington, D.C.

The impact of visitors on the well-being of captive animals presents both positive and potentially negative consequences. While some amount of novelty through visitor stimulation offers the opportunity for a more complex captive environment, anecdotal evidence from primate staff observations at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute suggested that gorillas exhibited increased restlessness during the annual month-long late night ZooLights (ZL) event than before it. The current study compared activity budgets, aggression (interactions involving contact between conspecifics and displays toward visitors), and abnormal behaviors in two groups of socially housed gorillas for 1-month periods before, during, and after the 2015 ZL event. We also compared the fecal glucocorticoid metabolite profiles of all six gorillas across these same observation periods. Physiologically, most individuals appeared to cope appropriately with the increased visitor presence during the event. We saw little difference in contact aggression; however, abnormal behavior was observed in some gorillas during and after the event, which highlights the importance of individual analysis and data interpretation. As predicted, we found that the majority of gorillas rested less during ZL than during other observation periods, particularly adult females in the mixed sex troop. Preliminary results of this study aided the decision of zoo management to close initially the Great Ape House and subsequently most animal buildings during future ZL events to avoid the potential disruption of normal activity patterns. While the findings of this study were mixed as to the impact of the event on these gorillas, the results suggest that zoos should carefully consider the possible ramifications of keeping great ape buildings open for lengthy multi-night events.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21553DOI Listing
July 2020

Welfare Assessment and Activities of Captive Elephants in Thailand.

Animals (Basel) 2020 May 26;10(6). Epub 2020 May 26.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand.

Thailand is the epicenter of elephant tourism and visiting an elephant camp is a popular activity according to the Tourist Authority of Thailand. However, the welfare of these elephants has been questioned by animal activist groups, international tour operators, and the public. Conclusions that the vast majority of captive elephants are abused often are based on anecdotal evidence and not solid science. So, it is difficult to tease apart emotion, opinion, and fact with regard to what practices are good or bad for elephant welfare. The aim of this paper was to: 1) describe the unique status of captive elephants in Thailand and associated regulations, 2) summarize current issues and challenges facing elephant tourism, 3) review studies conducted on welfare of tourist elephants in Thailand, and 4) offer recommendations for how elephants can be properly cared for under captive conditions in tourist camps. We conclude there are many ways to manage these elephants, and that not all tourist activities are bad for welfare. However, it is essential they be managed in a way that meets physical, physiological and psychological needs, and that management decisions are based on objective data.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10060919DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7341207PMC
May 2020

Allostatic Load Indices With Cholesterol and Triglycerides Predict Disease and Mortality Risk in Zoo-Housed Western Lowland Gorillas ().

Biomark Insights 2020 3;15:1177271920914585. Epub 2020 May 3.

Department of Anthropology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA.

Allostatic load, or the physiological dysregulation accumulated due to senescence and stress, is an established predictor of human morbidity and mortality and has been proposed as a tool for monitoring health and welfare in captive wildlife. It is estimated by combining biomarkers from multiple somatic systems into allostatic load indices (ALIs), providing a score representing overall physiological dysregulation. Such ALIs have been shown to predict disease and mortality risk in western lowland gorillas. In these prior analyses, we were unable to include lipid markers, a potential limitation as they are key biomarkers in human models. Recently, we were able to assay serum cholesterol and triglycerides and add them to our previous ALI. We then re-examined associations with health outcomes using binomial generalized linear models. We constructed ALIs using 2 pooling strategies and 2 methods. By itself, a 1-unit increase in allostatic load was associated with higher odds of all-cause morbidity and mortality, but results were mixed for cardiac disease. However, the best fit models for all-cause morbidity and cardiac disease included only age and sex. Allostatic load was retained alongside age in the best fit models for mortality, with a 1-unit increase associated with 23% to 45% higher odds of death. Compared with previous results, ALIs containing cholesterol and triglycerides better predict disease risk in zoo-housed western lowland gorillas, as evidenced by larger effect sizes for some models and better goodness of fit for all ALIs. Based on these results, we address methodology for future allostatic load research on wildlife.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1177271920914585DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7218307PMC
May 2020

Commonalities in Management and Husbandry Factors Important for Health and Welfare of Captive Elephants in North America and Thailand.

Animals (Basel) 2020 Apr 23;10(4). Epub 2020 Apr 23.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand.

This review paper is a synthesis of results from multiple studies that we have conducted over the past several years using similar methodologies to identify factors related to welfare of captive populations of elephants in North American zoos and Thailand tourist camps. Using multiple conservation physiology tools, we found that, despite vastly disparate management systems, there are commonalities in how environmental and husbandry factors affect physical and physiological outcomes. Elephants appear to have better welfare, based on fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) analyses, when housed under conditions that provide a more enriched, stimulating, and less restrictive environment. We also found it is essential to balance diet and exercise for good body condition and metabolic function. In Thailand, use of tools to control elephants, such as the ankus (i.e., guide, hook) and chains, did not equate to poor welfare per se, nor did riding; however, improper uses were associated with higher wound scores and FGM concentrations. Foot health was good overall in both regions, with cracks being the most common problem, and better foot scores were found in elephants kept on softer substrates. Based on these findings, science-based guidelines are being developed in Thailand, while in North America, changes are being incorporated into elephant standards and husbandry resource guides. Management across venues can be improved by encouraging elephant exploration and exercise, establishing socially compatibility groups, ensuring proper use of tools, and providing balanced diets. We contend there is no "one-size-fits-all" management strategy to guarantee good welfare for elephants, but there are essential needs that must be met regardless of where or how they are managed. Future studies are needed to find ways to better socialize elephants; determine how temperament affects coping styles and resilience; study the importance of good handler-elephant relationships; identify more ways for elephants to engage with the environment; and assess the effect of life history on subsequent physiological and psychological well-being.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10040737DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7222785PMC
April 2020

UNDERSTANDING PROLACTIN REGULATION AND DETERMINING THE EFFICACY OF CABERGOLINE AND DOMPERIDONE TO MITIGATE PROLACTIN-ASSOCIATED OVARIAN CYCLE PROBLEMS IN ZOO AFRICAN ELEPHANTS ( ).

J Zoo Wildl Med 2020 Mar;51(1):13-24

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Front Royal, Virginia 22630, USA.

Perturbations in serum prolactin secretion, both over- and underproduction, are observed in zoo African elephants () that exhibit abnormal ovarian cycles. Similar prolactin problems are associated with infertility in other species. Pituitary prolactin is held under constant inhibition by a hypothalamic-derived neurotransmitter, dopamine; thus, regulation by exogenous treatment with agonists or antagonists may be capable of reinitiating normal ovarian cycles. This study tested the efficacy of oral administration of cabergoline (agonist) and domperidone (antagonist) as possible treatments for hyperprolactinemia or chronic low prolactin, respectively. Hyperprolactinemic (overall mean prolactin, >30 ng/ml), acyclic elephants were administered oral cabergoline (2 mg, = 4) or placebo (dextrose capsule, = 4) twice weekly. Overall mean prolactin concentration decreased in treated females compared with controls (32.22 ± 14.75 vs 77.53 ± 0.96 ng/ml; = 0.01). Interestingly, overall mean progestagen concentrations also increased slightly ( < 0.05) in treated females (0.15 ± 0.01 ng/ml) compared with controls (0.07 ± 0.01 ng/ml), but no reinitation of normal cyclic patterns was observed. Chronic low prolactin (overall mean prolactin, <10 ng/ml), acyclic females were orally administered domperidone (2 g/day, = 4) or placebo (dextrose capsule, = 4) for 4 wk, followed by 8 wk of no treatment (four cycles) to simulate the prolactin pattern observed in normal cycling elephants. Overall mean prolactin concentrations increased ( = 0.005) during domperidone treatment (21.77 ± 3.69 ng/ml) compared with controls (5.77 ± 0.46 ng/ml), but progestagen concentrations were unaltered. Prolactin regulation by dopamine was confirmed by expected responses to dopamine agonist and antagonist treatment. Although prolactin concentrations were successfully reduced by cabergoline, and domperidone initiated the expected cyclic prolactin pattern, neither treatment induced normal ovarian activity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1638/2019-0017DOI Listing
March 2020

Longitudinal fecal hormone monitoring of adrenocortical function in zoo housed fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) during institutional transfers and breeding introductions.

PLoS One 2020 18;15(3):e0230239. Epub 2020 Mar 18.

Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, United States of America.

The ex situ population of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) has become increasingly important for the conservation of this species. Unfortunately, captivity-induced stress is a concern and potential factor for lack of breeding success in this small felid, resulting in an unsustainable population. The objectives of this study were to: 1) validate an enzyme immunoassay for monitoring of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations in the fishing cat; 2) identify potential exogenous stressors in the captive environment; 3) pinpoint management techniques that may lower FGM concentrations; and 4) determine if FGM concentrations are related to breeding success. Through a successful adrenocorticotrophic hormone challenge and additional laboratory methods, a cortisol enzyme immunoassay was validated as an effective tool for detecting FGM in this species. Between 2010 and 2013, longitudinal FGM monitoring was conducted in 26 fishing cats in the North American Species Survival Plan®. Exogenous stressors that elevated FGM concentrations included: chemical immobilizations; permanent transfers between facilities; construction; facility events; and fights/aggression among breeding pairs. Management factors that lowered FGM concentrations included: increased animal-keeper interaction through formal training; and providing indoor, off-exhibit, holding areas. In addition, social housing of individuals (either established breeding pairs or same sex pairs) decreased FGM concentrations. Individuals with breeding success (defined as observed copulations during the study period) also had lower FGM concentrations than unsuccessful individuals. Findings indicate that management factors play a role in lowering glucocorticoid (stress) levels in fishing cats, which may ultimately affect breeding success in the ex situ population.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0230239PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7080239PMC
June 2020

Short-term effects of GPS collars on the activity, behavior, and adrenal response of scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah).

PLoS One 2020 11;15(2):e0221843. Epub 2020 Feb 11.

Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA, United States of America.

GPS collars have revolutionized the field of animal ecology, providing detailed information on animal movement and the habitats necessary for species survival. GPS collars also have the potential to cause adverse effects ranging from mild irritation to severe tissue damage, reduced fitness, and death. The impact of GPS collars on the behavior, stress, or activity, however, have rarely been tested on study species prior to release. The objective of our study was to provide a comprehensive assessment of the short-term effects of GPS collars fitted on scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), an extinct-in-the-wild antelope once widely distributed across Sahelian grasslands in North Africa. We conducted behavioral observations, assessed fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM), and evaluated high-resolution data from tri-axial accelerometers. Using a series of datasets and methodologies, we illustrate clear but short-term effects to animals fitted with GPS collars from two separate manufacturers (Advanced Telemetry Systems-G2110E; Vectronic Aerospace-Vertex Plus). Behavioral observations highlighted a significant increase in the amount of headshaking from pre-treatment levels, returning below baseline levels during the post-treatment period (>3 days post-collaring). Similarly, FGM concentrations increased after GPS collars were fitted on animals but returned to pre-collaring levels within 5 days of collaring. Lastly, tri-axial accelerometers, collecting data at eight positions per second, indicated a > 480 percent increase in the amount of hourly headshaking immediately after collaring. This post-collaring increase in headshaking was estimated to decline in magnitude within 4 hours after GPS collar fitting. These effects constitute a handling and/or habituation response (model dependent), with animals showing short-term responses in activity, behavior, and stress that dissipated within several hours to several days of being fitted with GPS collars. Importantly, none of our analyses indicated any long-term effects that would have more pressing animal welfare concerns.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0221843PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7012457PMC
April 2020

Circadian Rhythm of Salivary Immunoglobulin A and Associations with Cortisol as A Stress Biomarker in Captive Asian Elephants ().

Animals (Basel) 2020 Jan 17;10(1). Epub 2020 Jan 17.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand.

Salivary immunoglobulin A (sIgA) has been proposed as a potential indicator of welfare for various species, including Asian elephants, and may be related to adrenal cortisol responses. This study aimed to distinguish circadian rhythm effects on sIgA in male and female Asian elephants and compare patterns to those of salivary cortisol, information that could potentially have welfare implications. Subjects were captive elephants at an elephant camp in Chiang Mai province, Thailand (n = 5 males, 5 females). Salivette kits were used to collect saliva from each elephant every 4 h from 06:00 to 22:00 h for 3 consecutive days (n = 15 samples/elephant). Enzyme immunoassays were used to quantify concentrations of IgA and cortisol in unextracted saliva. Circadian rhythm patterns were determined using a generalized least-squares method. Both sIgA and cortisol followed a circadian rhythm, although the patterns differed. sIgA displayed a daily quartic trend, whereas cortisol concentrations demonstrated a decreasing linear trend in concentrations throughout the day. There was no clear relationship between patterns of sIgA and salivary cortisol, implying that mechanisms of control and secretion differ. Results demonstrate for the first time that circadian rhythms affect sIgA, and concentrations follow a daily quartic pattern in Asian elephants, so standardizing time of collection is necessary.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10010157DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7023042PMC
January 2020

Irregular ovarian cyclicity is associated with adrenal activity in female eastern black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli).

Gen Comp Endocrinol 2020 04 24;289:113376. Epub 2019 Dec 24.

North of England Zoological Society, Chester Zoo, Chester CH2 1LH, UK.

To achieve self-sustaining and genetically diverse populations ex situ, captive breeding programmes must ensure good overall rates of reproduction, and equal contribution across individuals. Previous research in the critically endangered eastern black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) revealed a high incidence of irregular oestrous cyclicity; in particular extended cycle duration among nulliparous females and acyclic periods in parous females that have not bred for several years. Irregular ovarian activity could play a role in reduced reproductive output; however, the mechanisms underlying these anomalies are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to measure faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) concentrations and variability prior to and during periods of regular and irregular ovarian activity, and determine if adrenal activity influences the occurrence of different cycle types in this species. Faecal samples were collected every other day from parous (N = 6) and nulliparous (N = 12) females at eight European institutions for periods of 9-15 months. Concentration and variability in fGCM were compared between periods of regular and irregular cyclicity and between different cycle types (<20 days, 20-40 days, >40 days, acyclic) using generalized linear mixed models. Concentrations of fGCM were influenced by season and higher during the luteal than the follicular phase of the oestrous cycle. Taking this into account, fGCMs were increased during periods of irregular cyclicity (all types combined and during cycles >40 days in length) compared to 20-40 day cycles. This was predominantly driven by nulliparous females. The variation in fGCM concentration also differed between periods of regular and irregular cyclicity; higher standard deviation in fGCM preceded irregular cycles and >40 day cycles compared to 20-40 day cycles. These results suggest that although fGCM concentrations fluctuate across the oestrous cycle in this species, changes in adrenal activity at specific times could be one factor associated with irregular ovarian activity in the black rhinoceros.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2019.113376DOI Listing
April 2020

Management factors affecting adrenal glucocorticoid activity of tourist camp elephants in Thailand and implications for elephant welfare.

PLoS One 2019 1;14(10):e0221537. Epub 2019 Oct 1.

Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Elephant camps are among the most popular destinations in Thailand for tourists from many countries. A wide range of management strategies are used by these camps, which can have varied impacts on health and welfare of elephants. The objectives of this study were to examine relationships between FGM (fecal glucocorticoid metabolite) concentrations and camp management factors (work routine, walking, restraint, rest area, foraging), and to other welfare indicators (stereotypic behaviors, body condition, foot health, and skin wounds). Data were obtained on 84 elephants (18 males and 66 females) from 15 elephant camps over a 1-year period. Elephants were examined every 3 months and assigned a body condition score, foot score, and wound score. Fecal samples were collected twice monthly for FGM analysis. Contrary to some beliefs, elephants in the observation only program where mahouts did not carry an ankus for protection had higher FGM concentrations compared to those at camps that offered riding with a saddle and shows. Elephants that were tethered in the forest at night had lower FGM concentrations compared to elephants that were kept in open areas inside the camps. There was an inverse relationship between FGM concentrations and occurrence of stereotypy, which was not anticipated. Thus, assessing adrenal activity via monitoring of FGM concentrations can provide important information on factors affecting the well-being of elephants. Results suggest that more naturalistic housing conditions and providing opportunities to exercise may be good for elephants under human care in Thailand, and that a no riding, no hook policy does not necessarily guarantee good welfare.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0221537PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6771993PMC
March 2020

Individual and environmental risk factors associated with fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations in zoo-housed Asian and African elephants.

PLoS One 2019 4;14(9):e0217326. Epub 2019 Sep 4.

Department of Animal Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, United States of America.

A recent large-scale welfare study in North America involving 106 Asian (Elephas maximus) and 131 African (Loxodonta africana) elephants at 64 accredited facilities identified links (i.e., risk factors) between zoo environmental factors and a number of welfare outcomes (stereotypic behavior, ovarian acyclicity, hyperprolactinemia, walking and recumbence, body condition, health status, serum cortisol). For this population of elephants, we used the same epidemiological methods to examine associations between those risk factors and two additional welfare outcomes, mean concentration and individual variability (CV) of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations (FGM) as indicators of stress. Results indicate that African elephants are more responsive to social stressors than Asians, and that poor joint health is a stress-related welfare problem for Asian, but not African elephants in the North American population. For both species, higher FGM concentrations were associated with zoos located at more northern latitudes, whereas lower FGM concentrations were associated with having free access to indoor/outdoor spaces, and spending more time in managed interactions with staff. Also important for captive management, elephants having diverse enrichment options and belonging to compatible social groups exhibited reduced intra-individual variability in FGM concentrations. Our findings show that aspects of the zoo environment can be potential sources of stress for captive elephants, and that there are management activities that may facilitate coping with zoo conditions. Given species differences in factors that affected FGM, targeted, species-specific management approaches likely are needed to ensure good welfare for all elephants.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0217326PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6726191PMC
March 2020

From the Ivory Tower to Reality! Conclusions of the New Edition.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2019 ;1200:545-550

Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

While many of the traditional scientific disciplines have developed over centuries, animal conservation is a relative newcomer. It relies on multiple specialties with different levels of expertise that, eventually, generate vast amounts of data. More specifically, conservation physiology is an emerging area that can be defined as 'an integrative scientific discipline applying physiological concepts, tools, and knowledge to characterizing biological diversity and its ecological implications; understanding and predicting how organisms, populations, and ecosystems respond to environmental change and stressors; and solving conservation problems across the broad range of taxa, including microbes, plants, and animals' (Cooke et al. 2013). Reproductive biology is more focused, given that it mainly deals with the physiology underlying the production of gametes, embryos, and offspring, and the many associated processes that control these events. However, it is integrated into the different components of conservation physiology. In bringing together the various contributors for this book, the editors' purpose was to provide readers with a new perspective about the complexity behind reproduction and the role it plays in species conservation. Chapters highlight the diversity of reproductive mechanisms across taxa, and provide insight into how they may have evolved, and likely will continue to evolve in a changing environment. To conservation physiologists, the hope is that this information will be applied to sustain populations in both natural habitats and managed facilities. Ultimately, a major goal is to forecast and mitigate negative impacts of environmental change or anthropogenic pressures on animal fitness, which will only follow once we have acquired a solid understanding of reproductive processes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23633-5_18DOI Listing
September 2019

Update on Comparative Biology of Elephants: Factors Affecting Reproduction, Health and Welfare.

Authors:
Janine L Brown

Adv Exp Med Biol 2019 ;1200:243-273

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Front Royal, VA, USA.

Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants serve as important keystone, umbrella and flagship species. Despite that, population numbers are declining, due mainly to poaching and habitat destruction. Understanding reproductive mechanisms is vital to effective management, particularly insurance populations in captivity, and to that end, long-term biological databases are key to understanding how intrinsic and extrinsic factors affect reproductive function at individual and population levels. Through decades of hormonal and ultrasonographic monitoring, many unique aspects of zoo elephant reproduction have been identified, including differences in luteal steroidogenic activity, follicular maturation, pituitary gonadotropin secretion, fetal development and reproductive tract anatomy. Reproductive problems also hamper captive propagation efforts, particularly those related to abnormal or lack of ovarian cyclicity. Recent large-scale, multi-institutional studies and use of epidemiological approaches have identified factors important for good welfare and reproduction, which include enrichment, feeding diversity, good elephant-keeper relations, social compatibility, exercise, and not being obese. There are notable differences in reproductive mechanisms between Asian and African elephants, as well as the factors that influence reproduction and welfare, suggesting species-targeted management approaches are needed to maximize fitness. In the first edition, we discussed reproductive function in male and female elephants. Since then, a number of significant advances have been made primarily in female elephants, which will be the focus of this updated review.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23633-5_9DOI Listing
September 2019

Stress, Well-Being and Reproductive Success.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2019 ;1200:91-162

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, Front Royal, VA, USA.

To reverse the trend of declining wildlife populations globally, individuals must be provided with conditions that allow them to not just survive, but to thrive. It is no longer only the remit of captive breeding programs to ensure animal well-being; in situ conservation efforts also must consider how environmental and anthropogenic pressures impact wild populations, and how to mitigate them-especially with regards to reproduction and survival. Stress and welfare are complex concepts that necessitate an understanding of how stressors affect animals on both individual and population levels. There are species differences in how factors impact well-being, related in part to natural history, which also are shaped by individual perceptions and coping abilities. A multitude of stress-related responses then have the potential to disrupt fertility on many levels, and ultimately fitness. A major limitation to advancing welfare science is the lack of definitive tests to verify welfare status; i.e., is the animal happy or not? While analyses of circulating or excreted glucocorticoids have for decades been the primary method of assessing stress, today we recognize the need for more objective indicators that incorporate multiple physiological systems, including behavior, to assess both negative and positive welfare states. In this chapter, we discuss the potential for stress to disrupt, and sometimes facilitate reproduction, including the key role that glucocorticoids play. We then discuss a number of physiological biomarkers, which in addition to glucocorticoids, have the potential to assess well-being and the role of stress on reproduction. Finally, we discuss allostatic load, a method by which multiple physiological markers are used to inform on morbidity and mortality risk in humans, which if applied to wildlife, could be a powerful tool for conservation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23633-5_5DOI Listing
September 2019

Reproductive Science as an Essential Component of Conservation Biology: New Edition.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2019 ;1200:1-10

Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

The previous edition of this book mainly provided a snapshot of the state of the art in terms of species-specific reproductive biology and emerging technologies. The influence of environmental changes on reproductive fitness was introduced but not fully explored. The objectives of this second edition were to (1) emphasize the need for holistic and global efforts to understand and sustain reproduction in a constantly changing environment and (2) provide more knowledge in the reproductive physiology of different taxa. The first section of the book is dedicated to survival and adaptation of species in a changing environment (including chapters on environmental impacts in different taxa, as well as the role of microbiomes). The second section focuses on progress in understanding, assisting or even suppressing reproduction in wild species, keeping in mind the influence of environmental factors as well. It contains chapters from the previous edition that were updated (reproduction in elephants, koalas, marsupials, amphibians, and corals), new chapters on species such as sharks and rays, and contributions about the increasing role of reproductive manipulations, such as assisted reproduction and contraception. While the present book emphasizes the overarching issue of environmental impacts on reproduction (resulting in infertility, subfecundity, or fitness), it also highlights the challenges of maintaining wild species in captivity, including those associated with ensuring good welfare. Captive environments can influence reproduction in a multitude of ways, some unexpected, such as the selection of unwanted genetic traits, an essential dimension to be considered to ensure the success of conservation breeding programs. Lastly, new approaches, such as the use of allostatic load indexes and reproductive microbiome analyses also will be closely examined for the first time in rare and endangered species to address conservation issues.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-23633-5_1DOI Listing
September 2019

Fat mass compared to four body condition scoring systems in the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

Zoo Biol 2019 Oct 30;38(5):424-433. Epub 2019 Jul 30.

Department of Nutrition Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.

Captive elephant populations are not self-sustaining due to health concerns possibly related to obesity. Categorizing obesity relies on qualitative analyses like body condition scores (BCS). However, elephant indices have not been validated against measured body composition. The objective was to compare BCS systems to body composition determined by deuterium dilution in 28 zoo-kept Asian elephants. Elephants were weighed and given deuterated water orally (0.05 ml/kg). Blood was collected at ~0, 24, 120, 240, 360, and 480 hr after dosing. Photographs were taken to score the elephant based on four BCS systems (BCS [0 to 11 scoring], BCS [1 to 5 scoring], BCS [0 to 10 scoring], BCS [1 to 10 scoring]). Based on regression analysis, relative fat ranged from -305 kg to 515 kg, where negative values indicate less and positive values indicate more fat than expected for the elephant's mass in this population. BCS was associated with relative fat (p = .020, R  = 0.194). Relative fat, adjusted for sex and age in the statistical model, was associated with BCS (p = .027, R  = 0.389), BCS (p = .002, R  = 0.502), and BCS (p = .011, R  = 0.426). Inclusion of zoo and familial relatedness resulted in all BCS systems associated with relative fat (p ≤ .015). Only BCS predicted relative fat, unadjusted, suggesting it is the most capable system for practical use. Compared to absolute fat, relative fat may be more biologically relevant as greater fat relative to body mass is more likely to lead to health issues.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/zoo.21508DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6786925PMC
October 2019

Responsiveness of the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) ovary to exogenous gonadotropins after preemptive oral progestin treatment.

Theriogenology 2019 Oct 2;138:39-46. Epub 2019 Jul 2.

Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and National Zoological Park, Front Royal, Virginia, Washington DC, 20008, USA. Electronic address:

Control of ovarian function in cheetahs is sub-optimal, which currently limits the integration of assisted reproductive techniques into the genetic management of that endangered species. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of preemptive progestin treatment on the quality of ovarian responses after exogenous gonadotropin stimulation in cheetahs. Adult females received either 1) 200 IU equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) followed with 3,000 IU porcine luteinizing hormone (pLH) (intramuscular route) (n = 5; control group) or 2) similar eCG/pLH administration preceded by a 7-day treatment with oral progestin (0.1 mg/kg altrenogest; ALT group; n = 7). At 42 h post-pLH administration, a series of metrics was assessed via laparoscopy (number of follicles ≥ 2 mm, number of corpora lutea, oviduct and uterine cornua diameter and overall vascularization). Concentrations of fecal estradiol, progesterone and glucocorticoid metabolites (FEM, FPM, and FGM, respectively) were measured by enzyme immunoassay for 3 wk before ALT treatment (Period 1), 7 d during ovarian suppression period (Period 2), throughout eCG/LH treatment and laparoscopy (Period 3), and 6 wk following laparoscopy (Period 4). Overall, nine out of 12 cheetahs (4/5 in control and 5/7 ALT group) had freshly-formed corpora lutea at the time of laparoscopy. Mean follicle and corpora lutea numbers in the control versus ALT group were not different (P > 0.05). Overall measurements and vascularization scores also did not differ (P > 0.05) among groups. FEM average concentrations increased (P ≤ 0.05) in response to eCG for the ALT-treated females between Periods 2 and 3 and were sustained during Period 4. However, FEM average concentrations did not vary (P > 0.05) for control females throughout Periods 1-4. Post-ovulatory FPM average concentrations (Period 4) did not differ (P > 0.05) between the ALT-treated females and controls. FPM average concentration from both groups increased in Period 4 compared to Periods 1-3 (P ≤ 0.05). Females receiving the ALT treatment also had lower (P ≤ 0.05) FGM metabolite average concentrations than control females during ovarian suppression (suggesting adrenal suppression). Collective results suggest that ovarian response to gonadotropin treatment in the cheetah was improved following oral progestin administration due to the normative increase in estradiol following stimulation for these females compared with control. This treatment should lead to more effective timed assisted reproduction procedures for this species.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.theriogenology.2019.07.001DOI Listing
October 2019