Sci­en­tists study­ing ze­bra poo for an­swers

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS -

IT’S a dirty job but some­one’s got to do it.

Sci­en­tists at the Univer­sity of Manch­ester and Ch­ester Zoo are study­ing ZE­BRA POO in a bid to work out how global warm­ing is af­fect­ing an­i­mals.

By mea­sur­ing hor­mones in the poo the ex­perts are able to gauge the stress lev­els of the ze­bras and es­tab­lish how things such as cli­mate change and the loss of their nat­u­ral habi­tat are af­fect­ing their well-be­ing.

The un­usual branch of re­search, which stud­ied herds of South Africa’s Cape moun­tain ze­bra, has been dubbed ‘poo sci­ence’ and it’s hoped it could even­tu­ally be used to help pro­tect en­dan­gered species from ex­tinc­tion.

But sadly the ini­tial find­ings don’t make for happy read­ing.

The re­search found that the moun­tain ze­bras are fac­ing mul­ti­ple prob­lems, in­clud­ing poor habi­tat and gen­der im­bal­ances, which are likely to harm their health, have reper­cus­sions for their re­pro­duc­tion and, ul­ti­mately, their long-term sur­vival.

But Dr Su­sanne Shultz, from the School of Earth and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences at the univer­sity, said the ap­proach could have ma­jor ben­e­fits for an­i­mal con­ser­va­tion.

She added: “Fae­cal hor­mone mea­sure­ments are easy to col­lect with­out dis­turb­ing the an­i­mals and pro­vide a win­dow into the chronic stress an­i­mals are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

“Us­ing these in­di­ca­tors we can es­tab­lish the health of both in­di­vid­u­als and pop­u­la­tions.”

It’s hoped ‘poo sci­ence’ will also be able to tell con­ser­va­tion­ists how other species might re­spond to any fu­ture en­vi­ron­men­tal changes.

Dr Sue Walker, head of ap­plied sci­ence at Ch­ester Zoo, said: “This project is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of how we can use this knowl­edge and skills to also help the con­ser­va­tion of wild an­i­mals threat­ened with ex­tinc­tion.”

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