Estimates of locomotion in Asian elephants Elephas maximus using video monitoring at Dublin Zoo, Ireland

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Alison Brady, Barry J McMahon, Favel Naulty
Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research
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Welfare of elephants in zoos is a major concern within the public and zoo community. Asian elephants Elephas maximus are classified as endangered with one in three currently in human care. Elephants, in particular, are known to suffer from a number of health and behavioural issues when held in a zoo environment and physical activity is particularly important, with a lack of exercise leading to health issues, such as obesity, arthritis and foot problems. The aim of this study was to examine locomotory behaviour and associated habitat use in the adult members of the Dublin Zoo herd over a 2-month period using pre-recorded closed circuit television (CCTV) footage. Distance travelled was calculated using video footage and a grid overlay system to manually track the movements within the habitat. A total of 84 randomly selected 20-min focal observations were collected per individual over a 42 day period. Overall, the elephants in Dublin Zoo were found to display behaviours and travel distances comparable to those in the wild. The mean daily distance travelled (24 hours) was 9.35 km/day. Asian elephant herds in the wild travel distances of 5–10 km/day during non-extreme weather conditions. Free-ranging elephants are reported to spend 60–80% active hours feeding and up to 20 hours of their day is spent actively moving. The elephants in Dublin Zoo were found to spend 50% of their time foraging and 18% engaging in locomotion. Dublin Zoo elephants displayed locomotion and behavioural patterns more similar to the wild than to previous zoo studies. This study provides baseline data on the Dublin Zoo herd adding to existing knowledge about locomotion in Asian elephants in urban zoo environments in addition to demonstrating the applicability of CCTV footage to zoo behavioural studies.


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