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Non-invasive determination of fecal steroid hormones relating to conservation practice in giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)

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The endangered giant panda is the flagship species of wildlife conservation, a status that results in heightened attention to their well-being. However, one factor that hinders the ability to monitor this species in the wild is the difficulty to measure relevant physiological parameters which quantify the survival status in conservation research. In this study, we employed a non-invasive sampling method and immunochemical assays to determine if measurement of fecal steroid hormones is a viable option in monitoring the sex ratios and stress levels of a giant panda population. The results indicate that 1) the yearly concentration of fecal testosterone is a possible biomarker for distinguishing gender, and 2) invasive methods of artificial insemination and semen collection as well as parturition, cause an increase in fecal cortisol concentration. This study suggests that the noninvasive sampling of feces can be a practical tool to monitor physiological stress in free-ranging and fenced giant panda populations, and could be useful in the forthcoming giant panda census in determining sex ratios in the wild.

Affiliations: 1: Beijing Forestry University, No. 35 Tsinghua East Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 10083, China; 2: Beijing Forestry University, No. 35 Tsinghua East Road, Haidian District, Beijing, 10083, China;, Email:; 3: Shaanxi Rare Wildlife Rescuing and Breeding Research Center, Shaanxi, 710402, China


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