An enema method for obtaining fecal material from known individual seals on land
Female Antarctic fur seals returning ashore after foraging trips were restrained, and fecal material was obtained by introducing approximately one litre of warm water into the animal's colon via the anus. The material then naturally expelled by the animal was collected and analyzed. Of 159 enemas attempted, 148 (93%) produced enough fecal material for subsequent analysis, i.e., where ten or more carapaces or one or more otoliths were recovered. The method produced no obvious external signs of damage to any of the animals, and all were observed suckling their pups within the same season. There was no significant difference in the mean krill sizes collected by enema compared to scat sampling. Also, using their incidence, there was no significant difference in the two sampling methods for any of the fish species considered, though using the proportion of otoliths of a given species of the total otoliths found, there was a difference with one species, Gymnoscopelus nicbolsi. With this technique, it is possible to target individual seals or specific demographic categories for diet analysis. This means that, by using feces collected from enemas, a wider range of questions can be addressed than are currently possible using scat collection alone.
Authors: Staniland, I.J. ORCID record for I.J. Staniland, Taylor, R.I., Boyd, I.L.