Verein für Verhaltensforschung bei Tieren e.V.

The use of salivary cortisol to assess the welfare of elephants

Immanuel Birmelin
International Elephant and Rhino Conservation and Research Symposium

All creatures on our planet have a potential of adaption for unpredictable or changed environmental conditions. If the potential of adaption is exhausted, the animal might suffer from stress.

A non-invasive assessment of welfare in captive animals can be realized by measuring the salivary cortisol, which indicates stress. Animal rights activists often argue, that circus-elephants suffer from stress under the conditions of the circus. Thats why we measured the salivary cortisol of three African circus-elephants in the paddock and during the transport. We did the tests in the paddock always at the same time on four sequently following days to avoid diurnal effects. To measure the salivary cortisol during the transport we took samples before and after the tour from Monte Carlo to Plaschow/Germany. The use of salivary cortisol to assess the welfare of elephants

The biochemical analysis of the samples were done by Prof. Sylvia Kaiser of the university of Muenster/Germany. The measured data of the elephants in the paddock was similar to the measured values of elephants in a compound (Menargues et al 2008). There were also no differences between the measured values before and after the transport, which leads us to the conclusion, that the tour didn`t cause stress for the elephants.

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