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CZAAWE Resource Article
An investigation into resting behavior in Asian elephants in UK zoos
Year of publication
Maintaining adequate welfare in captive elephants is challenging. Few studies have investigated overnight rest behavior in zoo elephants, yet time spent resting has been identified as a welfare indicator in some species. We investigated resting behavior in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in UK zoos, with the aim of identifying patterns or preferences in lying rest. Details of standing (SR) and lying (LR) rest behavior were identified by observing video footage of inside enclosures collected for 14 elephants (2 male, 12 female) housed at three UK zoos (Zoo A: 18 nights; Zoo B: 27 nights; Zoo C: 46 nights) from 16:00 to 08:30 (approximately). Elephants engaged in a mean of 58–337 min rest per night. Time of night affected mean duration of LR bouts (P < 0.001); longest bouts were observed between 22:01 and 06:00. Elephants showed a substrate preference when lying to rest; LR was not observed on concrete or tiled flooring. Where sand was available (to 11/14 elephants), all elephants engaged in LR on sand flooring. Only two elephants engaged in LR on rubber flooring (available to 7/14 elephants). Mean duration of rest bouts was greater when a conspecific was within two body lengths than when conspecifics were not (P < 0.01). Our study indicated that elephants show substrate preferences when choosing an area for rest and engage in more rest when conspecifics are in close proximity. The results of this study could be used as a basis for future studies investigating the link between rest and welfare in captive elephants. Zoo Biol. 34:406–417, 2015. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.