Aim Human activities are major determinants of forest elephant ( Loxodonta africana cyclotis ) distribution in Gabon, but the types and intensity of disturbance that elephants can tolerate are not known. We conducted dung surveys within the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas in SW Gabon to examine (1) the feasibility of noninvasive faecal analyses for monitoring stress physiology, and (2) the inﬂuence of petroleum operations on stress levels in forest elephants. Location Gabon, Central Africa. Methods We identiﬁed multiple dung piles from the same individual by matching their eight-locus microsatellite genotypes, and measured faecal concentrations of glucocorticoid metabolites as an indicator of stress in areas subject to different levels of disturbance: (1) Loango National Park (2) an ‘industrial corridor’ dominated by oil ﬁelds, and (3) a nearby area of human settlements. Results We obtained unique microsatellite genotypes and faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (FGM) concentrations for 150 forest elephant individuals, which is the largest hormonal data set for wild African forest elephants to date. Adults exhibited higher mean FGM concentrations than juveniles, and in contradiction of our expec- tations of chronic stress around oil ﬁelds, elephants in Loango National Park exhibited signiﬁcantly higher FGM concentrations than elephants in the industrial corridor. Main conclusions We argue that forest elephants in the industrial corridor of the Gamba Complex have become acclimated to oil ﬁelds, resulting in part from oil company regulations that minimize stressful interactions between elephants and petroleum operations. Our ﬁndings for a ﬂagship species with substantial ecological requirements bode well for other taxa, but additional studies are needed to determine whether oil operations are compatible over their life span with rain forest ecosystems in Central Africa.
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