Elizabeth Sgambelluri, MS, is a 2018 graduate of the MS Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England, with a Concentration in Conservation Biology

Thesis Committee:

  • Beth Kaplin, PhD, Thesis Adviser
  • Lisabeth Willey, PhD, Committee Member
  • Michelle Kneeland, DVM, Committee Member


wildlife health, captive, assessment, African lion, Panthera leo, saliva, noninvasive sampling methods, collection

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Very little research exists concerning direct correlations between alterations in stress stimuli and direct effects on carnivore physiology. Many studies have researched and documented what factors correlate to increased stress levels in predator species. Lacking, however, are studies observing the specific physiologic influences of increased glucocorticoid concentrations in those individuals. Furthermore, methods for monitoring and assessing health or immune function in many carnivore species often involve invasive techniques, such as physical restraint, blood sampling, and chemical immobilization. This study aimed to create, evaluate, and describe a new device for noninvasive collection of saliva for health assessment. The device itself was constructed on a “bucket in a bucket” concept, wherein saliva was deposited into a smaller, inner container and attractants housed in the larger, outer container. Two attractants, catnip extract and bear bait, were placed inside the device for elicitation of salivation and passive drooling response. Efficacy of the device, as well as evidence regarding its accuracy and safety, were evaluated through testing trials conducted at the Rosamond-Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY (USA) using two captive lions. Success was determined and scored using several metrics, including the ability to elicit behaviors, whether or not lion(s) approached the device, and whether or not saliva was collected. Three trials were conducted, with two of the three yielding a success value greater than three (maximal score being four). Saliva was successfully deposited and collected in the device during the first trial. Urine and hair samples were also collected using the device. The results obtained substantiate that such can be utilized in collection of saliva. Moreover, they highlight the potential of this device in reforming or providing an alternative approach to current techniques, while providing a springboard for the use of saliva in wildlife health assessment.

Disclosure: Provisional patent pending for device (Ser. No 62/720,961) by Wendy W. Koba, Esq. (see Appendix 5)


Elizabeth Sgambelluri

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000-0001-8995-2435