© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Ensuring welfare in captive wild animal populations is important not only for ethical and legal reasons, but also to maintain healthy individuals and populations. An increased level of social behaviors such as aggression can reduce welfare by causing physical damage and chronic stress to animals. Recently, cortisol in hair has been advanced as a non-invasive indicator to quantify long-lasting stress in many species. The sensitivity of social behavior and hair cortisol concentration was evaluated in several groups of dorcas gazelles (Gazella dorcas). Four different groups of gazelles from three different zoos were observed and the expression of intra-specific affiliative and negative social behaviors was assessed across the different groups. Hair samples were taken from sub-groups of animals and analyzed for cortisol concentrations. Significant differences between groups of dorcas gazelles were found in frequency of negative social behavior and hair cortisol concentration. Despite the low sample size, these two parameters had a positive Spearman correlation coefficient (rs = +0.80, P = 0.20). These results suggest that hair cortisol levels are sensitive to differences in the social structure of dorcas gazelles. Zoo Biol. 35:467–473, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
- animal welfare
- social behavior