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Lower levels of glucocorticoids in crop-raiders: diet quality as a potential `pacifier' against stress in free-ranging Asian elephants in a human-production habitat

Pokharel, SS and Singh, B and Seshagiri, PB and Sukumar, R (2018) Lower levels of glucocorticoids in crop-raiders: diet quality as a potential `pacifier' against stress in free-ranging Asian elephants in a human-production habitat. In: ANIMAL CONSERVATION, 22 (2). pp. 177-188.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12450


Overlapping habitats and sharing of resources between elephants and people has led to intense elephant-human conflicts, especially crop depredation by elephants, across elephant-range countries. While raiding agricultural crops, elephants face numerous threats from people through chase, injury and the risk of death which could enhance the associated energetic costs, ultimately elevating their stress levels. We hypothesized that crop-raiders (in the human-production habitat) would show higher faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels, a proxy of stress-response, as compared to nonraiders (in protected forests). To study this, 208 faecal samples were collected from crop-raiding elephants in a human-production habitat and 394 samples from nonraiding elephants in protected forests during 2013 and 2015. Contrary to our expectation, fGCM levels were significantly higher in nonraiding than in crop-raiding elephants of both sexes. As one of the possible factors for lower fGCM in elephants inhabiting the human-production habitat, the influence of benefits obtained from foraging here was assessed. For this, the difference in vegetation greenness (standing biomass) between the human-production habitat and the protected forests was analysed from remotely-sensed Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI), and further confirmed by measuring dietary quality (faecal nitrogen (N) content and C:N ratio as proxies for crude protein). Interestingly, higher NDVI values (greater biomass availability), higher N content and lower faecal C:N ratio (indicating higher protein content in the diet) of elephants in the human-production habitat suggested enhanced nutritional levels here as compared to protected forests. Further, there were significant correlations between faecal C:N ratio (positive) or N content (negative) and fGCM levels. These findings suggest that crop-raiding comes with the benefits of a superior quality diet which may help in reducing human-induced stress-response in elephants inhabiting or foraging within human-production habitats.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: WILEY
Additional Information: Copyright for this aricle belongs to ANIMAL CONSERVATION
Keywords: Elephas maximus; crop-raiding; elephant-human conflict; stress hormones; faecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCM); Normalized Differential Vegetation Index (NDVI); dietary C; N ratio; diet quality
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Division of Biological Sciences > Molecular Reproduction, Development & Genetics
Date Deposited: 24 May 2019 09:54
Last Modified: 27 May 2019 04:59
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/62738

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