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Determining adrenocortical endocrine activity as a measure of stress in African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) based on faecal analysis

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Author(s): Andre Ganswindt | Adrian Tordiffe | Ed Stam | Mark Howitt | Ferran Jori

Journal: African Zoology
ISSN 1562-7020

Volume: 47;
Issue: 2;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: faecal glucocorticoid metabolites | ACTH challenge test | animal separation | hormone degradation rate | circadian variation

ABSTRACT
Little is known regarding the levels of stress experienced by African buffalos affected by injury, disease, or socio-ecological and anthropogenic factors. To be able to start filling this gap, we examined the suitability of two enzyme-immunoassays (EIAs), using antibodies against 5β-androstane-11,17-dione-3-HS:BSA and 5β-androstane-3α-ol-11-one-17-CMO:BSA, respectively, for monitoring stress-related physiological responses in African buffalo based on faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) analysis. An adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) challenge in one male and one female housed at Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre, South Africa, showed a 3-fold increase in circulating cortisol levels 40 minutes post-injection and a corresponding 9-15-fold increase in FGM levels after 7-22 hours, determined using both EIAs. FGM levels monitored during the adaptation process of individual housing revealed an up to 14-fold elevation in FGM concentrations. Storage of faeces at ambient temperature for up to 16 h post-defecation resulted in an increase in FGM levels of maximal 16.5%. Finally, a substantial increase in individual baseline FGM concentrations was found in samples defecated overnight, indicating a diurnal effect in excretion of FGMs in African buffalo. The ability to non-invasively assess adrenocortical endocrine function in African buffalo now provides a solid basis to further examine endocrine responses to putative stressful circumstances in this species.
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