CZAAWE Resource Article

Activity budgets and the relationship between feeding and stereotypic behaviors in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in a Zoo
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Zoo Biology
07333188 10982361
Activity budgets were studied in eight Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) at Chester Zoo (UK) for 35 days, between January and November 1999. Recordings were made between 10:00 and 16:00 hr (with most behavior frequencies calculated between 10:00 and 14:00 hr). The elephants exhibited variation in activity depending on their age, sex, the time of day and the time of year. Only the five adult cows exhibited stereotypic behavior, with frequencies ranging from 3.9 to 29.4% of all observations. These elephants exhibited individual, diurnal and seasonal variation in stereotypic behavior. This has implications for studies that use short sampling periods and may make comparisons of data collected at different times of the day or year invalid. The six adult elephants spent 27.4–41.4% of the time feeding (between 10:00 and 14:00 hr), 22.9–42.0% standing still, 6.1–19.2% walking and 3.9–9.6% dusting. The hypothesis that the frequency of stereotypic behavior in adult cow elephants was negatively correlated with the frequency of feeding behavior was tested and was found to be true. Stereotypic behavior increased in frequency toward the end of the day—while waiting to return to the elephant house for food—and elephants spent more time stereotyping during the winter months than during the summer months. Elephants were inactive (i.e. exhibited behaviors other than locomotion) for between 70.1 and 93.9% of the time. Creating more opportunities for elephants to exhibit foraging behavior and the introduction of greater unpredictability into management regimes, especially feeding times, may reduce the frequency of stereotypic behavior and increase general activity levels.