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CZAAWE Resource Article
Estimating daily walking distance of captive African elephants using an accelerometer
Year of publication
Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
Two central concerns for elephant husbandry and management are whether zoological enclosures are appropriately sized and the degree to which naturalistic exercise and activity are observed in such enclosures. In order to address these issues, accurate data on the daily walking distance of elephants both in situ and ex situ are necessary. We used an accelerometer, a pedometer that measures step count and activity level, to estimate walking distance in African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. The accelerometer was worn simultaneously with a GPS unit that recorded actual walking distance. Estimates of walking distance were extrapolated from the accelerometer and compared with actual distances determined by GPS data. The accelerometer was found to overestimate step count, and subsequently walking distance, by including false counts of steps. Extrapolating walking distance based upon stride length measurements did not match actual GPS walking distance. However, activity level output from the accelerometer significantly correlated with actual GPS walking distance. In addition, we report that the rate of movement is comparable to that reported in other zoological settings. We provide a linear regression equation that can be utilized by other institutions to estimate daily walking distance of elephants in their collection who are outfitted with accelerometers. Zoo Biol 30:579–591, 2011. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.