Stress assessment in captive greylag geese (Anser anser)

Isabella Scheiber, Marlijn Sterenborg, Jan Komdeur

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Chronic stress—or, more appropriately, “allostatic overload”—may be physiologically harmful and can cause death in the most severe cases. Animals in captivity are thought to be particularly vulnerable to allostatic overload due to artificial
housing and group makeup. Here we attempted to determine if captive greylag geese (Anser anser), housed lifelong in captivity, showed elevated levels of immunoreactive corticosterone metabolites (CORT) and ectoparasites in dropping samples as well as some hematological parameters (hematocrit, packed cell volume, total white blood cell count [TWBC], and heterophil:lymphocyte ratio [H:L]). All of these have been measured as indicators of chronic stress. Furthermore, we correlated the various stress parameters within individuals. Captive geese showed elevated values of CORT and ectoparasites relative to a wild population sampled in the vicinity of the area where the captive flock is held. The elevated levels, however, were by no means at a pathological level and fall well into the range of other published values in wild greylag geese. We found no correlations between any of the variables measured from droppings with any of the ones collected from blood. Among the blood parameters, only the H:L negatively correlated with TWBC. We examine the problem of inferring allostatic overload when measuring only 1 stress parameter, as there is no consistency between various measurements taken. We discuss the different aspects of each of the parameters measured and the extensive individual variation in response to stress as well as the timing at which different systems respond to a stressor and what is actually measured at the time of data collection. We conclude that measuring only 1 stress parameter often is insufficient to evaluate the well-being of both wild and captively housed animals and that collecting behavioral data on stress might be a suitable addition.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)2124-2133
TijdschriftJournal of Animal Science
Volume93
DOI's
StatusPublished - 15-mei-2015

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