With low birth rates, the sustainability of a zoo African elephant population is in question. A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers reveals that there is no relationship between how fat a zoo African elephant is and her reproductive cycling status.

While obesity has been linked to abnormal ovarian cycles in other large mammals, the new findings suggest there is not an association between body fat and reproductive cycling in zoo elephants.

Daniella Chusyd, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Nutrition Sciences, recently published new research in Obesity highlighting data she and her team collected from zoo African elephants. Chusyd and colleagues quantified, for the first time, total fat mass in African elephants. Rather than a direct measure of body fat, previous studies have relied on a body condition score, or BCS, to categorize whether elephants are obese. According to the study, BCS is a visual, subjective assessment of subcutaneous body fat stores.

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