Stereotypic Behaviour in Elephants

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Paul A Rees
Animal Behaviour and Welfare Cases
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Stereotypic behaviour is undesirable in zoos, especially when it occurs in large sentient mammals such as elephants because there is evidence that it is often linked to poor welfare conditions and suboptimal management. Elephant managers make great efforts to prevent, or at least reduce, the performance of stereotypic behaviours and this is perceived as beneficial for individual animals. Some studies of stereotypic behaviours in mammals have found links with central nervous system dysfunction while others have suggested that stereotypies reduce stress in captive environments and function as a coping mechanism. Although repetitive behaviours are common in mammals, only some of these behaviours are strictly speaking stereotypic in nature, that is to say, they have no obvious purpose. This case study examines the nature of stereotypic behaviours and other repetitive behaviours in elephants, their aetiology and changes in elephant management that might result in a reduction in stereotypic behaviours and a consequent welfare gain.


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