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Vaccination against GnRH may suppress aggressive behaviour and musth in African elephant (Loxodonta africana) bulls - a pilot study

H. M. De Nys, H. J. Bertschinger, J. A. Turkstra, B. Colenbrander, R. Palme, A. M. Human

Journal of the South African Veterinary Association; Vol 81, No 1 (2010), 8-15. doi: 10.4102/jsava.v81i1.88

Submitted: 03 May 2010
Published:  03 May 2010

Abstract

Aggressive behaviour and musth are constant problems in captive and sometimes in free-ranging African elephant bulls. Aggressive bulls are difficult and musth bulls almost impossible to manage without severely restricting their movement either by leg-chaining or using tranquillisers. This study investigated the relationship between faecal androgen metabolites (FAM) and faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM) concentrations and aggressive behaviour and tested a GnRH vaccine as a means of down-regulating aggressive behaviour and musth in 1 free-ranging and 5 captive elephant bulls. The bulls were non-aggressive (n = 3), aggressive (n = 2) or in musth (n = 1) at the onset of the study. The bulls were injected with a GnRH vaccine-adjuvant combination 3 or 4 times at 3- to 7-week intervals. Behaviour, FAM and FCM concentrations were measured during every week prior to vaccination until 4 months after the last vaccination. FAM concentrations were positively correlated with aggressive behaviour before the 1st vaccination. Androgen production, as reflected by FAM concentrations, was down-regulated in 3 of the 6 immunised bulls. At least 2 bulls and possibly a 3rd showed behavioural improvement following GnRH vaccination and in all 3 temporal gland secretion ceased. No further aggressive behaviour was observed until the end of the study in any of the bulls. The results of this 1st GnRH immunisation study suggest that it could be a useful method to control aggressive behaviour and musth in African elephant bulls.

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Author affiliations

H. M. De Nys,
H. J. Bertschinger,
J. A. Turkstra,
B. Colenbrander,
R. Palme,
A. M. Human,

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1. SUPRESSION OF TESTICULAR FUNCTION IN A MALE ASIAN ELEPHANT (ELEPHAS MAXIMUS) TREATED WITH GONADOTROPIN-RELEASING HORMONE VACCINES
Imke Lueders, Thomas Bernd Hildebrandt, Charles Gray, Stephan Botha, Peter Rich, Cheryl Niemuller
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine  vol: 45  issue: 3  first page: 611  year: 2014  
doi: 10.1638/2013-0233R.1

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