Analysis of Fecal Temperature and Feeding Behavior on the Gastrointestinal Nematode Egg Density in the Feces of Captive African Antelope
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Conservation programs have become essential tools in the maintenance of biodiversity. In response to declining animal populations driven by physical landscape and climate pattern disruptions, wildlife organizations have implemented habitat conservation and protection programs. The influx of animals from different protection programs has pushed managers to develop new strategies to maintain adequate husbandry conditions and raise the standards of animal health. Gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) are one of the most prevalent threats to the health of animals in captivity. In response, animal researchers and conservation managers must work towards reducing the frequency of parasitism by pinpointing behavioral or physiological indicators that could lead to a quick and inexpensive approach of identifying individuals that are more susceptible to GIN infection. In this study we explore the use of feeding behavior and fecal temperature as potential indicators of parasitism. We collected fecal samples and conducted grazing/browsing observations for five different antelope species at a Safari West Wildlife Preserve in Santa Rosa, California: Addax nasomaculatus, Tragelaphus strepsiceros, Hippotragus equinus, Kobus megaceros, and Nanger dama. The feeding behavior analysis showed that the level of fecal nematode egg density (FED) in K. megaceros and N dama was significantly related to the number of observed grazing events, suggesting that grazing frequency could be a potential indicator of FED. We also found that using an infrared temperature gun is not an adequate sampling method for fecal temperature, however we encourage subsequent studies to adopt a temperature sampling method that can more accurately assess a possible correlation between FED and fecal temperature.