Longitudinal fecal hormone monitoring of adrenocortical function in zoo housed fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) during institutional transfers and breeding introductions

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Jilian M Fazio, Elizabeth W Freeman, Erika Bauer, Larry Rockwood, Janine L Brown, Katharine Hope, Jessica Siegal-Willott, ECM Parsons
PloS One
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The ex situ population of fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) has become increasingly important for the conservation of this species. Unfortunately, captivity-induced stress is a concern and potential factor for lack of breeding success in this small felid, resulting in an unsustainable population. The objectives of this study were to: 1) validate an enzyme immunoassay for monitoring of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations in the fishing cat; 2) identify potential exogenous stressors in the captive environment; 3) pinpoint management techniques that may lower FGM concentrations; and 4) determine if FGM concentrations are related to breeding success. Through a successful adrenocorticotrophic hormone challenge and additional laboratory methods, a cortisol enzyme immunoassay was validated as an effective tool for detecting FGM in this species. Between 2010 and 2013, longitudinal FGM monitoring was conducted in 26 fishing cats in the North American Species Survival Plan®. Exogenous stressors that elevated FGM concentrations included: chemical immobilizations; permanent transfers between facilities; construction; facility events; and fights/aggression among breeding pairs. Management factors that lowered FGM concentrations included: increased animal-keeper interaction through formal training; and providing indoor, off-exhibit, holding areas. In addition, social housing of individuals (either established breeding pairs or same sex pairs) decreased FGM concentrations. Individuals with breeding success (defined as observed copulations during the study period) also had lower FGM concentrations than unsuccessful individuals. Findings indicate that management factors play a role in lowering glucocorticoid (stress) levels in fishing cats, which may ultimately affect breeding success in the ex situ population.


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