Cheetah Stress

ACK Mary's picture
Fri, 2012-07-20 08:44 by ACK Mary · Forum/category:

More poop talk....
Cheetah health is related to their environment, including the level of stress they are under. Healthy cheetahs will eat, breed and play. But if stress is too high an animal will be threatened with disease and with lack of energy needed for them to survive. For a cheetah there can be a variety of factors causing stress. Some factors include: proximity to humans (especially where tolerance is low and/or people or dogs harass the cheetahs), proximity to other predators (lion, hyena, leopard, jackal and vultures will steal prey or kill cheetahs), decline of prey base, or lack of water (both prey and water means the cheetah has to move greater distances in search of resources). While the outward signs of stress are not always evident, the internal functions will be affected over time. The first signal of stress is found in fecal deposits (poop). The extraction of the hormone is not an easy process and the hormone degrades over time and exposure to the sun. Thus locating fresh poop is critical in understanding the level of stress in the animal.

Morgan worked with us for two months training our staff on fecal collection for hormone analysis. During her time with us we have realized that looking for fresh scat is a VERY difficult task. The staff has identified a few key sites where cheetahs tend to return, but the low density of cheetahs over time means that finding the fresh scat is a matter of timing. We found only 15 fresh samples... not enough for baseline stress evaluation or comparison of the Salama and Athi-Kapiti system. Although our staff will continue to look for scat throughout the year... and will still store the fresh samples with hormone analysis as the primary goal, we have realized that the number of scats may be a challenge.

Morgan is currently proposing an extention of her study to include fecal collection in the Samburu region, and possibly including captive cheetahs within the country. This will give her a larger number of samples to test and should give her the extremes of baseline stress in our cheetahs. Collection of the fresh scat is also best for the hormone analysis so will also give more positive results in Nelson's long term studies.

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