Influence of male presence on female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) behaviour in captivity

  • Bruno Colaço University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro
  • Ana Pinto University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, UTAD, Portugal
  • Mikkel Stelvig Copenhagen Zoo, Denmark
  • Carla Costa University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, UTAD, Portugal
  • Jorge Colaço University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro
Keywords: Elephant, conservation, zoo, behaviour, welfare, stereotypic

Abstract

The maintenance of natural behaviour in captivity is relevant for optimizing animal welfare and reproductive efficiency. In captivity, few studies have evaluated the male´s influence on the behaviour of Asian females’ elephants (Elephas maximus).  Therefore, we investigated foraging, standing, elimination, vocalization, courtship, mating and stereotypic behaviours in four female Asian elephants after the recent introduction of a dominant male. Elephant activity was video recorded and behavioural data were collected through observing video footage. In male´s presence, females spent less time foraging and more time standing (p<0.05). Although differences were not statistically significative, an increased elimination behaviour frequency was also observed when the male was present. Females also performed more vocalisations (p<0.05) in male’s presence.  Behaviours, such as courtship and mating, were highly correlated (r=0.793 and p<0.05), demonstrating that both sexes were performing sexual behaviours. The females also exhibited less frequently stereotypic behaviours when the male was present (5,6% of the time) than when he was absent (26,8% of the time)(p<0.05). Therefore, we have shown that in captivity female elephants behave in a male’s presence as their wild conspecifics, which is beneficial for their conservation and well-being. It can be concluded that temporary integration of a male elephant in a female group in captivity has a positive influence on females, leading them to perform less stereotypies and to promote their reproductive behaviours. Further studies should be performed to enhance the knowledge on male´s influence in female welfare in captivity.

Published
2020-01-02
Section
Articles