1. Hormone analyses are frequently used to support management of wildlife; however, current techniques are not very field-friendly. In situ hormone monitoring is often expensive, time consuming and logistically difficult. Thus, a new method for assessing ovarian cycle activity non-invasively in free-ranging African elephants was developed.
2. The technique involves handshaking faecal samples in common organic solvents, use of environmentally stable antibody-coated microtitre plates and assessment of progestagen concentrations based on a visual colour change.
3. Studies using ex situ African elephants determined that handshaking faeces in a solution of isopropyl alcohol was effective for extracting the faecal progestagens (efficiency >90%).
4. Antibody-coated plates were stable for up to 3 months under a range of temperatures (4 to >38 °C) and the resulting faecal oestrous cycle progestagen profiles corresponded significantly to those of serum (r = 0·89, P < 0·01).
5. This field-friendly technique provided qualitative hormone data without the need for expensive equipment. Although developed for progestagen analyses in elephants, this approach should be adaptable to other steroids in a myriad of species. As such, it could facilitate how hormones are measured in species under field conditions and provide new tools for making sensible conservation management decisions.