Locomotion in captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)
It is of great importance that zoos provide animals with enclosure space and enrichment to replicate their natural existence. The aim of this study was to examine and calculate the total distance travelled and utilisation of enclosure space by the Asian elephants housed at the Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens (Melbourne Zoo), Victoria, Australia. The distance travelled was calculated via video analysis, using a grid overlay system to manually track an adult bull and four adult cow elephants between 0600 and midnight. The mean daily distance travelled over the 18-hour active period was 9.05±0.61 km, with an individual range of 6.21–15.00 km. In comparison, when living in non-extreme environmental conditions, wild Asian and African elephants have been estimated to travel an average of 5–10 km each day, demonstrating that Melbourne Zoo’s elephants travel at the top end of their wild counterparts’ range of daily travel distances. The techniques used in the present study allow for the approximate calculation of distance travelled by urban zoo elephants, and could potentially be applied to a range of species kept in captivity. Being able to measure distance travelled could be a very useful tool in furthering welfare considerations and management in a captive environment.
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