Effect of Tourist Activities on Fecal and Salivary Glucocorticoids and Immunoglobulin A in Female Captive Asian Elephants in Thailand
Master’s Degree Program in Veterinary Science, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Center of Elephant and Wildlife Research, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Center for Species Survival, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA 22630, USA
Faculty of VeterinaryMedicine and Applied Zoology, HRH Princess Chulabhorn College of Medical Science, Chulabhorn Royal Academy, Lak Si, Bangkok 10210, Thailand
Department of Food Animal Clinic, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Veterinary Public Health Centre and Food Safety for Asia Pacific (VPHCAP), Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Department of Clinical Sciences and Services, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK
Department of Companion Animal and Wildlife Clinics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Department of Veterinary Bioscience and Veterinary Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
North of England Zoological Society, Chester Zoo, Upton-by-Chester, Chester CH2 1LH, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 2 September 2020 / Revised: 28 September 2020 / Accepted: 15 October 2020 / Published: 21 October 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Wildlife
How tourist camp activities affect individual elephant welfare is an important and highly debated topic. Saliva and fecal samples were collected monthly for 1 year from 44 female Asian elephants that participated in three programs (saddle-, bareback-, or no-riding), and analyzed for glucocorticoids (GC) and immunoglobulin A (IgA). The hypothesis was that better welfare would be associated with low GC and high IgA concentrations. Both biomarkers showed significant variation with respect to camp size, riding activities, tourist-to-elephant ratios and seasonality, but not always consistently between feces and saliva, and not always in the predicted direction. However, there was no clear indication that riding per se negatively affected these two biomarkers. The lack of consistent responses highlights the difficulty in interpreting physiological data in relation to management factors, and suggests more work is needed to differentiate between potential chronic (feces) and acute (saliva) responses.