Assessment of Adrenal and Reproductive Function in Male Bornean Elephants Living in Oil Palm Plantations with Different Management Practices
The Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) is a sub-species of the endangered Asian elephant, making its conservation critical. Over the years, many elephants, particularly male groups, have begun residing in non-protected habitats such as oil palm plantations, which can be dangerous for both elephants and people. Little is known of the physiological effects on elephants residing in these human-dominated landscapes. However, it is likely that elephants traversing these plantations experience more stress, which in turn could compromise reproductive function.
Our first objective is to measure fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (fGCM) as a proxy for the stress response in adult bull elephants living in an "elephant-friendly" oil palm plantation compared to those living in a "not elephant-friendly" oil palm plantation. We will collect dung samples approximately monthly for a year from 5-10 individuals residing in each site to measure concentrations of fGCM. We will use analysis of covariance to examine the influence of two management approaches on fGCM concentrations.
Our second objective is to analyze the correlation between fecal androgen metabolite (fAM) and fGCM concentrations to determine if increased stress is compromising reproductive function. We expect that fGCM concentrations in elephants living in the "elephant-friendly" oil palm plantation will be lower compared to those living in a "not elephant-friendly" plantation, and that fAM concentrations will be higher.
This research aims to provide a deeper understanding of how elephants adapt to human-modified landscapes and cope with challenging environments. Results may help to identify and promote best management practices that will promote human and elephant co-existence in oil palm plantation landscapes.