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Elevated levels of stress hormones in crop-raiding male elephants


  • Editor: Steve Redpath Associate Editor: Charudutt Mishra

Marissa A. Ahlering, National Zoological Park, 3001 Connecticut Ave., Washington, DC 20008, USA. Tel: +1 202 633 4109; Fax: +1 202 673 4648


Crop raiding is one of the most common forms of human–elephant conflict. Deterring elephants from raiding crops requires an understanding of the factors influencing the behavior of the individuals involved. We collected fecal samples from five group ranches in southern Kenya where crop-raiding incidents had occurred (n=10) and two protected areas, Amboseli National Park (n=24) and Maasai Mara National Reserve (n=20). We used molecular sexing to sex the individuals and radioimmunoassay kits to determine the level of glucocorticoid metabolites (i.e. stress hormones) in their dung. All crop-raiding individuals were male and had a significantly elevated concentration of glucocorticoid metabolites as compared with the Amboseli elephants (W=12, P=0.0005). We detected no significant difference between Maasai Mara elephants and either Amboseli or the crop-raiding elephants when just males were compared. Our results suggest that crop raiding may be related to stress in elephants.