Impacts of Livestock Grazing on Fecal Glucocorticoid Levels and Gastrointestinal Parasite Prevalence in Blue Sheep in Spiti Valley, Western Himalayas


  • Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560012, Karnataka
  • Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad – 500007, Telangana
  • Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad – 500007, Telangana
  • Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad – 500007, Telangana



Blue Sheep/Bharal (Pseudois nayaur), Fecal Glucocorticoid Metabolites, Livestock Grazing, Parasite Prevalence, Trans-Himalayas


Livestock grazing in protected areas is known to affect wild species. In this study, we examined fecal Glucocorticoid Metabolite Concentration (fGCM) and gastrointestinal parasite prevalence in blue sheep populations of Spiti valley, Himalayas. We collected 156 fecal samples of blue sheep from areas under intense livestock grazing and areas without small livestock during 2014-15. We also collected 27 fecal samples from livestock to examine parasite prevalence. We found that blue sheep in livestock-grazed areas had higher fGCM than non-grazed areas. Similarly, parasite prevalence was higher in areas with presence of cattle. Overall, adult females were more affected by disturbance and grazing compared to males and young ones. This is the first study to document the physiological stress response of wild ungulates to livestock grazing in Indian sub-continent. We suggest management recommendations to set aside pastures for exclusive use by wild blue sheep, regularly deworm livestock, and decrease the stray dog population.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Mishra C. High altitude survival: Conflicts between pastoralism and wildlife in the Trans-Himalaya (Doctoral dissertation, Wageningen University, The Netherlands); 2001.

Nature Conservation Foundation. Management Plan for the Upper Spiti Landscape Including the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Mysore, India; 2015.

Mishra C, Van Wieren SE, Heitkönig IM, Prins HH. (2002) A theoretical analysis of competitive exclusion in a Trans-Himalayan large-herbivore assemblage. Animal Conservation Forum (Cambridge University Press). 2002; 5(3):251-58. https://doi. org/10.1017/S1367943002002305

Handa O. Tabo Monastery and Buddhism in the Trans-Himalaya: Thousand years of existence of the Tabo Chos-Khor. Indus Publishing;1994.

Mishra C, Prins HH, Van Wieren SE. Overstocking in the Trans-Himalayan rangelands of India. Environmental Conservation. 2001; 28:279-83.

Bagchi S, Mishra C, Bhatnagar YV. Conflicts between traditional pastoralism and conservation of Himalayan ibex (Capra sibirica) in the Trans-Himalayan mountains. Animal Conservation. 2004; 7(2):121-28.

Suryawanshi KR, Bhatnagar YV, Mishra C. Why should a grazer browse? Livestock impact on winter resource use by bharal Pseudois nayaur. Oecologia. 2010; 162(2):453-62. PMid:19784849

Mishra C, Van Wieren SE, Ketner P, et al. Competition between domestic livestock and wild bharal Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Journal of Applied Ecology. 2004; 41:344-54.

Creel S, Fox JE, Hardy A, et al. Snow mobile activity and glucocorticoid stress responses in wolves and elk. Conservation Biology. 2002; 16:809-14.

Thiel D, Jenni-Eiermann S, Braunisch V, et al. Ski tourism affects habitat use and evokes a physiological stress response in capercaillie Tetrao urogallus: A new methodological approach. Journal of Applied Ecology. 2008; 45(3):845-53. https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2008.01465.x

Arlettaz R, Patthey P, Baltic M, et al. Spreading free-riding snow sports represent a novel serious threat for wildlife. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 2007; 274:1219-24. PMid:17341459 PMCid:PMC2189568

Schell CJ, Young JK, Lonsdorf EV, Santymire RM. Anthropogenic and physiologically induced stress responses in captive coyotes. Journal of Mammalogy. 2013; 94(5):1131-40.

Millspaugh JJ, Woods RJ, Hunt KE, et al. Fecal glucocorticoid assays and the physiological stress response in elk. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 2001; 29(3):899-907.

Wasser SK, Bevis K, King G, Hanson E. Noninvasive physiological measures of disturbance in the northern spotted owl. Conservation Biology. 1997; 11(4):1019-22.

Bhattacharjee S, Kumar V, Chandrasekhar M, Malviya M, et al. Glucocorticoid stress responses of reintroduced tigers in relation to anthropogenic disturbance in Sariska Tiger Reserve in India. PloS one. 2015; 10(6):e0127626. pone.0127626 PMid:26061171 PMCid:PMC4465644

Navarro-Castilla A, Mata C, Ruiz-Capillas P, et al. Are motorways potential stressors of roadside wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) populations? PloS one. 2014; 9(3):e91942. PMid:24637740 PMCid:PMC3956862

Navarro-Castilla Á, Díaz M, Barja I. Does ungulate disturbance mediate behavioural and physiological stress responses in Algerian mice (Mus spretus)? A wild exclosure experiment. Hystrix. The Italian Journal of Mammalogy. 2017.

Gillespie TR. Noninvasive assessment of gastrointestinal parasite infections in free-ranging primates. International Journal of Primatology. 2006; 27:1129.

Sloss MW, Kemp RL, Zajac AM. Fecal examination: Dogs and cats. Veterinary clinical parasitology. 6th ed. Ames: Iowa State University Press; 1994.

Hussain S, Ram MS, Kumar A, et al. Human presence increases parasitic load in endangered lion-tailed macaques (Macaca silenus) in its fragmented rainforest habitats in southern India. PLoS One. 2013; 8(5):e63685. pone.0063685 PMid:23717465 PMCid:PMC3661510

Umapathy G, Kumar V, Kabra, M, Shivaji S. Detection of pregnancy and fertility status in big cats using an enzyme immunoassay based on 5β-pregnan-3β-ol-20-one. General and Comparative Endocrinology. 2013; 180:33-38. PMid:23142266

Mithileshwari C, Srivastava T, Kumar V, et al. Non-invasive assessment of fecal progestagens and pregnancy detection in Himalayan musk deer (Moschus chrysogaster). Theriogenology. 2016; 85(2):216-23. PMid:26454526

Kumar V, Reddy VP, Kokkiligadda A, et al. Non-invasive assessment of reproductive status and stress in captive Asian elephants in three south Indian zoos. General and Comparative Endocrinology. 2014; 201:37-44. PMid:24698789

Budithi NRB, Kumar V, Yalla SK, et al. Non-invasive monitoring of reproductive and stress hormones in the endangered red panda (Ailurus fulgens fulgens). Animal Reproduction Science. 2016; 172:173-81. PMid:27481551

Umapathy G, Deepak V, Kumar V, et al. Endocrine profiling of endangered tropical chelonians using noninvasive fecal steroid analyses. Chelonian Conservation and Biology. 2015; 14(1):108-115.

Keay JM, Singh J, Gaunt MC, Kaur T. Fecal glucocorticoids and their metabolites as indicators of stress in various mammalian species: A literature review. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. 2006; 37:234-44. PMid:17319120

Touma C, Palme R. Measuring fecal glucocorticoid metabolites in mammals and birds: the importance of validation. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2005; 1046(1):54-74. PMid:16055843

Tyagi A, Kumar V, Kittur S, et al. Physiological stress responses of tigers due to anthropogenic disturbance especially tourism in two central Indian tiger reserves. Conservation Physiology. 2019; 7(1):coz045. PMid:31321036 PMCid: PMC6626984

Van Meter PE, French JA, Dloniak SM, et al. Fecal glucocorticoids reflect socio-ecological and anthropogenic stressors in the lives of wild spotted hyenas. Hormones and Behavior. 2009; 55(2):329-337. PMid:19056392 PMCid:PMC2987620

Huber S, Palme R, Arnold W. Effects of season, sex, and sample collection on concentrations of fecal cortisol metabolites in red deer (Cervus elaphus). General and Comparative Endocrinology. 2003; 130:48-54.

Foley CAH, Papageorge S, Wasser SK. Noninvasive stress and reproductive measures of social and ecological pressures in freeranging African elephants. Conservation Biology. 2001; 15:1134-42.

Beehner JC, McCann C. Seasonal and altitudinal effects on glucocorticoid metabolites in a wild primate (Theropithecus gelada). Physiology and Behaviour. 2008; 20:95(3):508-14. PMid:18706919

Sheriff MJ, Krebs CJ, Boonstra R. The sensitive hare: Sublethal effects of predator stress on reproduction in snowshoe hares. Journal of Animal Ecology. 2009; 78(6):1249-58. PMid:19426257

Scheuerlein A, Van’t Hof T, Gwinner E. Predators as stressors? Physiological and reproductive consequences of predation risk in tropical stonechats (Saxicola torquata axillaris). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 2001; 268(1476):1575-82. PMid:11487404 PMCid: PMC1088780

Lafferty KD, Gerber LR. Good medicine for conservation biology: The intersection of epidemiology and conservation theory. Conservation Biology. 2002; 16:593-604.

Gortázar C, Ferroglio E, Höfle U, et al. Diseases shared between wildlife and livestock: a European perspective. European Journal of Wildlife Research. 2007; 53:241.

Vander Waal KL, Atwill ER, Isbell LA, McCowan B. Quantifying microbe transmission networks for wild and domestic ungulates in Kenya. Biological Conservation. 2014; 169:136-146.

Martin C, Pastoret PP, Brochier B, et al. A survey of the transmission of infectious diseases/infections between wild and domestic ungulates in Europe. Veterinary Research. 2011; 42:70. PMid:21635726 PMCid:PMC3152899

Pedersen AB, Jones KE, Nunn CL, Altizer S. Infectious diseases and extinction risk in wild mammals. Conservation Biology. 2007; 21(5):1269-1279. PMid:17883492 PMCid:PMC7202242

Gortazar C, Diez-Delgado I, Barasona JA, et al. The wild side of disease control at the wildlife-livestock-human interface: a review. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2015; 1:27. PMid:26664926 PMCid:PMC4668863

Leendertz FH, Pauli G, Maetz-Rensing K, et al. Pathogens as drivers of population declines: the importance of systematic monitoring in great apes and other threatened mammals. Biological Conservation. 2006; 131:325-37. biocon.2006.05.002

Daszak P, Cunningham AA, Hyatt AD. Infectious disease and amphibian population declines. Diversity and Distributions. 2003; 9:141-150.

Wang Q, Xiao YF, Vuitton DA, et al. Impact of overgrazing on the transmission of Echinococcus multilocularis in Tibetan pastoral communities of Sichuan Province, China. Chinese Medical Journal-Beijing. 2007; 120(3):237. 200702010-00013

Sanyal PK. Gastrointestinal parasites and small ruminant production in India. In:ACIAR Proceedings; 1996. p. 109-112.

Roberts LS, Janovy J, Schmidt JD. Foundations of Parasitology, New York: McGraw Hill; 2009.




How to Cite

Iyer, P., Kumar, V., Reddy, M., & Umapathy, G. (2022). Impacts of Livestock Grazing on Fecal Glucocorticoid Levels and Gastrointestinal Parasite Prevalence in Blue Sheep in Spiti Valley, Western Himalayas. Journal of Endocrinology and Reproduction, 26(1), 45–53.



Original Research