Impact of a new exhibit on stereotypic behavior in an elderly captive African elephant

  • Christian Schiffmann University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Marcus Clauss


Stereotypic behavior in zoo elephants is considered an indicator of impaired welfare. The underlying causes are diverse and many aspects are still unexplored. Nevertheless, many zoological institutions take huge efforts to improve the well-being of their elephants. The construction of a new exhibit provides a chance to gain further evidence on the impact of such measures on elephant behavior. We report a significant decrease in the amount and frequency of swaying in an elderly African elephant (Loxodonta africana) after transition to a new enclosure. While we assume that continuous social interactions, increased freedom of choice and appropriate resting locations were critical for the distinct improvement of this individual´s well-being, the only factor that significantly correlated with swaying in this individual was the amount of time per day the elephant group was separated. These factors are in large part independent of enclosure size. Thus, corresponding adaptations in elephant husbandry are also encouraged in facilities without resources for the building of extensive new exhibits and may lead to increased zoo elephant welfare.

Evidence Based Practice