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Differences in husbandry and management systems across ten facilities housing Asian elephants Elephas maximas in India



    1. Animal Behaviour and Welfare Group, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Division of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK, and
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    • 3Present address: Avanti Mallapur, Department of Animal & Avian Sciences, Animal Science Center, University of Maryland, Bldg 142, Regents Drive, College Park, MD 20742, USA.

    • 4Funded by: Richard Hughes Scholarship from Chester Zoo, Chester, Cheshire CH2 1LH, UK.


    1. International Fund for Animal Welfare, 1350 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 1220, Washington, District of Columbia 20036, USA
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A face-to-face questionnaire survey was conducted to document the husbandry and management systems followed by ten facilities housing Asian elephants Elephas maximas in India. Eighty-two Asian elephants at these ten facilities were surveyed between November 2004 and February 2005. A significantly greater percentage of the elephants managed by zoos (n=4 zoos; 13 elephants surveyed) and the forest elephant camp (n=1 forest elephant camp; five elephants surveyed) were housed in pairs or groups; whereas animals maintained by tourist camps (n=2 tourist camps; 40 elephants surveyed) and temples (n=3 temples; 24 elephants surveyed) were permanently restrained with minimal social contact (physical contact with other elephants). A considerably larger proportion of elephants from tourist camps and temples were housed in environments devoid of natural features, such as trees, shrubs and water bodies. Forest elephant camp and zoo elephants, on the other hand, were housed in complex species-specific environments, which included water bodies, trees/shrubs and a substrate of compacted mud. From this paper, it is evident that the husbandry and management protocols vary significantly across the degrees of captivity, with some facilities (e.g. zoos and a forest elephant camp) being more conducive for housing elephants than others (e.g. temples and tourist camps).