Infrared thermography of Erinaceus europaeus: Applications with hypothermia and hibernation.
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Erinaceus europaeus, although widely distributed across Europe, are experiencing dramatic declines throughout their UK populations. These declines place further importance on the role of rescue and rehabilitation centres in contributing to conservation of the species. Therefore reviewing and incorporating new technology and understanding into husbandry, assessment and diagnostic protocols and practices used within these rescue centres is key to maximising success rates. This study aimed to investigate the application of infrared thermography (IRT) in a rescue centre environment to hypothermia assessment as well as hibernation monitoring.
Infrared thermography (IRT) is becoming more widely available and accessible; as a non-invasive temperature assessment tool, further exploration of its uses is warranted, particularly with wildlife where minimal handling is essential to reduce stress. To assess hypothermia, a common condition of new arrivals as a result of shock, three infrared camera models (FLIR E60bx, FLIR C2 and FLIR One) were tested at Prickles and Paws Hedgehog Rescue Centre, Cubert, Cornwall. Surface eye temperature was used as a proxy for core temperature. The FLIR E60bx demonstrated increased accuracy when compared to rescue centre staff diagnosis, with a significant difference between diagnostic categories (normal temperature, mild hypothermia and hypothermic) demonstrating misdiagnosis by centre staff. The application of IRT to skin temperature monitoring throughout hibernation demonstrated no clear pattern with weight loss that could be applied to husbandry practices, however clear patterns between spontaneous arousals, length of hibernation and weight loss were found independent of IRT skin temperature. Correlations indicate higher weight loss for longer hibernation periods but fewer spontaneous arousals, weight loss was also comparatively lower in the >700g weight category. These findings provide a basis for further research into the treatment of hypothermia in E. europaeus now that core temperature can be non-invasively accurately assessed and to establish the relationship between skin temperature and weight loss during hibernation.
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