Nocturnal behavior in a group of female African elephants

Authors

  • Megan L. Wilson,

    Corresponding author
    1. Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois
    2. TECHlab, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
    3. Center for Conservation and Behavior, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
    • Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60614
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  • Meredith J. Bashaw,

    1. TECHlab, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
    2. Center for Conservation and Behavior, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
    3. Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, San Diego, California
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  • Kimberly Fountain,

    1. Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Sarah Kieschnick,

    1. Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
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  • Terry L. Maple

    1. TECHlab, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta, Georgia
    2. Center for Conservation and Behavior, School of Psychology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
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Abstract

The nocturnal behavior of a stable group of female, African elephants (Loxodonta africana africana) was studied to: (1) examine their behavior as a function of hour of night; (2) qualitatively compare the elephants' activity budgets to those reported in a previous study; and (3) document the presence of aggressive and stereotypic behaviors that might necessitate a change in their management. The elephants were systematically observed at least five times per week for 10 weeks between 17:00 and 08:00. Instantaneous focal samples of behavior, location, and proximity were taken every minute on a rotating basis, and all observed occurrences of social behavior were recorded. The hour of night affected elephant activity: significant relationships were found between hour of night and percent of time they spent feeding, lying, and standing. The overall activity budgets of the elephants were similar to the activity budgets reported in a previous study, although differences were evident in lying, stereotypic, and social behaviors. These differences might be a function of age. Affiliative behaviors accounted for 57% of the elephants' social behaviors, and agonistic behaviors among the elephants occurred infrequently and caused no injuries. Additionally, the elephants used all areas to which they had access. These findings provide compelling evidence that unrestricted social access during the night is the appropriate management strategy for these elephants. The results from the present study also highlight the importance of replicating existing studies and using multiple behavioral measures to make decisions regarding the welfare and management of stable groups of captive elephants. Zoo Biol 25:173–186, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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