Habituation of common eland (Taurotragus oryx) to intensive routine handling, and the effect of immunocastration thereon
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The temperament of captive common eland (Taurotragus oryx) during handling is crucial for their management, as they have been identified as an ideal antelope for game meat farming, and are well-represented in captive antelope populations world-wide. Generally speaking, common eland are considered undomesticated, and thus maintain their natural prey instincts, making it necessary to habituate them to routine handling. Immunocastration can be implemented as part of the herd management strategy in mixed or single-sex eland groups, and might reduce aggressive behaviour of males by blocking the production of testosterone, thereby improving docility for ease of handling. Within this study, data was collected to determine the influence of routine handling and immunocastration on the temperament of common eland during handling. Twenty-nine common eland were divided into two groups: sub-adults (n = 15; ca. 2 years old; 182.9 ± 59.37 kg) and juveniles (n = 14; ca. 6 months old; 94.18 ± 24.76 kg), and they were routinely handled every two weeks over a four-month period (10 handling events). Within each age group, females, males, and immunocastrated males were present. Immunocastration treatment was administered during the second and fourth handling events (2 mL Improvac®/ animal). During handling, animals were individually driven through the raceway and finally restrained in a squeeze chute, where routine biological samples and measurements were collected. Faecal androgen metabolite (fAM) concentrations were measured for each event, for males only. Each animal was focally sampled for specific behaviours during the handling. A temperament score was obtained by observing the general state of the animal from the point of entering the raceway, until its exit from the squeeze chute. Generalized linear mixed models tested the influence of immunocastration, week, group, fAM concentration, and body weight on the temperament score.
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