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Researchers Study Impact of Environment and Stress on Cheetah Health

Captive cheetah populations worldwide are plagued by debilitating diseases and infertility, conditions that are rare in wild cheetahs. Although these condtions were originally thought to be associated with the lack of genetic diversity in captive animals, mounting evidence indicates that chronic stress in response to aspects of the captive environment alters the cheetah’s immune system.

Scientists from the University of Illinois investigated how individual animal temperament, environmental factors and captive management practices influence stress responses of cheetahs and affect the development of Helicobacter-induced gastritis, one of the more serious diseases affecting captive cheetahs. Through this Morris Animal Foundation–funded study, they found that cheetahs with certain temperaments are at high risk for detrimental stress responses and gastritis.

They also learned that gastritis and stress hormone levels varied significantly by facility, indicating that overall facility management practices are important in controlling disease and stress response. In particular, housing animals with high-risk temperaments at certain facilities or improving facility designs to lower stress in these animals may be beneficial in improving the overall health of captive cheetahs.

Posted by MAF on July 3, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Wildlife health


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