Age and Social History Impact Social Interactions between Bull Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) at Denver Zoo

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Taylor S Readyhough, Maura Davis, Sharon Joseph, Anneke Moresco, Amy L Schreier
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
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Wild bull Asian elephants spend time in all-male groups. Therefore, managers of ex situ populations increasingly house bulls together. We examined the social interactions of five bull Asian elephants at Denver Zoo, using instantaneous sampling to compare social interactions across adolescent and mature bulls, and bulls with a social history prior to the integration of this group compared to bulls with no social history. Both age and social history significantly affected bull behavior. Adolescent bulls exhibited more affiliative and submissive behaviors when housed with mixed-age and mature social partners compared to with only adolescents, and less non-contact agonistic behavior and less time in proximity to a conspecific with mixed-age groups compared to with only other adolescents. Mature bulls exhibited more affiliative behavior when they were with only adolescent bulls compared to only mature bulls, and more time in proximity to a conspecific and increased contact agonistic behavior with at least one adolescent compared to only mature bulls. Bulls in new social groups engaged in more affiliative, agonistic, and submissive behaviors, and spent less time in proximity, than when they were in previously established social combinations. As more institutions house bulls socially, our results provide insights into factors that may affect bull social interactions.


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