Blackpool Zoo collects glittery poo from female Asian elephants to determine pregnancy

Up to 50% of Asian elephants have declined over the last three generations, according to Blackpool Zoo. Credit: Blackpool Zoo

Blackpool Zoo are collecting glittery poo to help identify if female elephants are pregnant.

Female Asian elephants, Tara, Noorjahan and Esha consume food containing different colours of edible glitter to help zookeepers identify each of their faeces.

Their stool samples are collected twice a week and sent to a research laboratory at Chester Zoo for hormone analysis.

Under recommendation from the European Endangered Species Programme, the dung is gathered to help zookeepers track female reproductive cycles, occurring every 13 to 16 weeks.

The research is involved in the zoo's Project Elephant which aims to preserve the species.

The Asian elephants were marked as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1986, according to Blackpool Zoo.

Adam Kenyon, section head at Blackpool Zoo, says he's excited to read the results from the most recent samples, he said: “We have used edible glitter to track hormone levels of many of our animals, so it is a tried and tested method for these types of investigations.

“The team at Chester Zoo have been working hard to analyse the samples through a science called faecal endocrinology and we are hoping to get the findings soon.

“This highly intelligent and complex species is endangered in the wild and by collaborating, sharing research and exchanging ideas, zoos play a crucial role in the global effort to protect and conserve these majestic animals.”

The first Asian elephant to live in Blackpool Zoo was in 2017. Credit: Blackpool Zoo

The project is Blackpool's largest investment and is the UK's biggest indoor elephant house with the aim of meeting the needs of the mammals.

Kate, the first resident of the enclosure joined in 2017, with Minbu, Noorjahan, Tara and Esha joining the facility in 2018. In 2019, Emmett was the zoo's first male elephant.

Mr Kenyon hopes the six elephants will allow the zoo to breed more Asian elephants, he said: “Project Elephant Base Camp was our largest ever investment and from the earliest stages of planning our aim was to develop a programme for the successful care and management of a multi-generational elephant herd.

“The facility combines the UK’s largest indoor elephant house with several outdoor habitats, all of which were meticulously designed to support the complicated needs of Asian elephants.

“In 2020 we announced the successful integration of all six of our elephants and we have been continually monitoring their social development. With the help of science, we now hope this will lead to breeding success.”

Up to 50% of Asian elephants have declined over the last three generations, according to Blackpool Zoo.

The mammals' decline is attributed to the loss of habitat, habitat degradation and poaching.

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