The effect of proximity relations to mahouts on social behaviors among captive Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Saki Yasui, Gen’ichi Idani
Animal Behaviour and Management
, , , ,

Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) have worked with people for a long time in several Asian countries. Additionally, there are many elephants in zoos and sanctuaries all over the world. In captivity, accidents sometimes occur involving elephants and zoo keepers (mahouts). Although humanelephant relationships are very important to the management of elephants in captivity, there have not been many studies done on these to date. The objective of this study was to clarify how mahout– elephant proximity relations influence elephant behavior. Our subjects were 17 captive Asian elephants at the Elephant Study Centre in Surin Province, Thailand. We recorded all social behaviors performed by each focal animal and the distances between her and her mahout every minute. We compared the frequency with which the elephants and mahouts stayed in close proximity to one another and the frequencies of different social behaviors involving the elephants. We found that elephants that maintained close proximity to their mahouts for longer periods underwent fewer interactions with other elephants. This study may represent the first report to demonstrate the influence of mahouts on the social behavior of captive elephants.


Back to Resources