Some ecological factors that might potentially influence intestinal parasite loads in the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus Linn.) were investigated in the Nilgiris, southern India. Fresh dung samples from identified animals were analysed, and the number of eggs/g of dung used as an index of parasite load. Comparisons across seasons and habitats revealed that parasite loads were significantly higher during the dry season than the wet season, but were not different between the dry-deciduous and dry-thorn forests in either season. After accounting for the effect of age on body condition, there was no correlation between body condition, assessed visually using morphological criteria, and parasite load in either season. Individuals of different elephant herds were not characterized by distinct parasite communities in either season. When intra-individual variation was examined, samples collected from the same individual within a day differed significantly in egg densities, while the temporal variation over several weeks or months (within a season) was much less. Egg densities within dung piles were uniform, enabling a simpler collection method henceforth.
Volume 48, 2023
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