Behavioural profiles of African bovids (Hippotraginae)

  • Jane Martia Packard Texas A&M University
  • Kenneth E. Loonam Texas A&M University
  • Crystal R. Arkenberg Texas A&M University
  • Helen M. Boostrom Houston Zoo
  • Tammy L. Cloutier Texas A&M University
  • Edward J. Enriquez Texas A&M University
  • Adam Eyres Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
  • Holly Haefele Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
  • Taylor R. Salzar Texas A&M University
  • Mari A. Smultea Texas A&M at Galveston
  • Kelley Snodgrass Fossil Rim Wildlife Center


Behavioural assays for taxon-specific groups aid in assessing individual welfare and population planning (e.g. choice of enclosures, age/sex structure of groups, candidates for breeding and reintroduction).  Personality approaches to measuring individual variation have focused less on ethological coding of individual behavioural differences of the animals and more on keeper questionnaires.  Although use of questionnaires is a convenient and efficient technique, responses vary with the diversity of keeper experience.  Typically, keeper contact is minimized when animal groups are managed for recovery and reintroduction.  We report on a systematic technique for measuring behavioural traits under conditions where individuals are in large social groups with minimal keeper contact.  This case study was conducted at a conservation breeding centre that is part of a network of institutions managing sustainable herds of ungulates with long-term goals of recovery, reintroduction and ecological restoration.  We developed a behavioural assay system for the subfamily Hippotraginae (African horse antelope), based on ethological coding of video samples.  We field-tested this behavioural assay system, using focal observations of  breeding males in herds of addax (Addax nasomaculatus) and sable (Hippotragus niger).  Behavioral profiles of breeding males differed significantly for activity (G2 = 107.74, df = 4, p < 0.001), social (G2 = 16.99, df = 2, p < 0.001) and proximity categories (G2 = 6.57, df = 2, p < 0.05).  We discuss the utility of coding video samples, statistical approaches to assessing variability in individual behaviour profiles and the value of a hierarchical nested approach to analyzing behavioural categories.  Considering the need for sustainability in population planning, we recommend applying this evolutionary ecology framework for designing behavioural assay systems especially for species managed for recovery and reintroduction.

Author Biographies

Jane Martia Packard, Texas A&M University
Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Associate Professor
Kenneth E. Loonam, Texas A&M University
Crystal R. Arkenberg, Texas A&M University
Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
Helen M. Boostrom, Houston Zoo
Primates, Senior Keeper
Tammy L. Cloutier, Texas A&M University
Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
Edward J. Enriquez, Texas A&M University
Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
Adam Eyres, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Hoofstock Curator
Holly Haefele, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Director of Animal Health
Taylor R. Salzar, Texas A&M University
Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences
Mari A. Smultea, Texas A&M at Galveston
Marine Interdisciplinary Program
Kelley Snodgrass, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
Chief Operating Officer