Santymire, R. M., Adkin, A., Bernier, D. et al. 2021. Validating the use of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite analysis to assess the adrenocortical activity of the zoo-housed Sichuan takin (Budorcas taxicolor tibetana). Zoo Biology 40(5), 479-484.
With limited information known about the zoo-housed Sichuan takin (Budorcas taxicolor tibetana), there is a need to gain more knowledge about their basic physiology to be able to better assess their well-being. Our goal was to develop noninvasive methods to evaluate stress physiology in the Sichuan takins housed under human care. The objectives were: (1) validate the use of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) analysis to monitor adrenocortical activity and (2) determine the relationship between FGM concentrations and changes in various factors including environmental conditions, reproductive hormones, and social factors. Three (one male and two females) adult Sichuan takins were included in the study from Lincoln Park Zoo. A cortisol enzyme immunoassay was used to analyze FGM from samples that were collected 2–4 times per week. FGM was biochemically validated in the laboratory and biologically validated using pregnancy and parturition. Results showed that 1 day after birth one female had a more than a six-fold increase in FGM. A positive relationship (p < .05) was observed between FGM and temperature for two of the three takins. Finally, FGM values tended to increase during times when aggression (p = .09) and reproductive (p = .08) behaviors were observed. In conclusion, environmental, reproductive, and behavioral factors could affect adrenocortical activity in zoo-housed Sichuan takins; therefore, these methods can be used to assist in the management and conservation of this threatened species both in zoos and potentially in the wild.