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Social life of captive Asian elephants ( Elephas maximus ) in Southern India: implications for elephant welfare

By Vanitha Varadharajan, Thiyagesan Krishnamoorthy, Baskaran Nagarajan

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Asian elephants in the wild live in complex social societies; in captivity, however, management often occurs in solitary conditions, especially at the temples and private places of India. To investigate the effect of social isolation, this study assessed the social group sizes and the presence of stereotypies among 140 captive Asian elephants managed in 3 captive systems (private, temple, and forest department) in Tamil Nadu, India, between 2003 and 2005. The majority of the facilities in the private (82%) and temple (95%) systems held a single elephant without opportunity for social interaction. The forest department managed the elephants in significantly larger groups than the private and temple systems. Among the 3 systems, the proportion of elephants with stereotypies was the highest in temple (49%) followed by private system (26%) and the forest department facility (6%); this correlates with the social isolation trend observed in the 3 systems and suggests a possible link between social isolation and abnormal elephant behavior separate from other environmental factors. The results of this study indicate it would be of greater benefit to elephant well being to keep the patchily distributed solitary temple and private elephants who are socially compatible and free from contagious diseases in small social groups at "common elephant houses" for socialization.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 14
Issue 1
Pages 42-58
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2011.527603
Language English
Author Address Department of Zoology, Anbanathapuram Vahiara Charity (A.V.C.) College, Mayiladuthurai,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal rights
  2. Animals
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Asia
  5. Commonwealth of Nations
  6. Communicable disease
  7. Developing countries
  8. Effect
  9. Elephants
  10. Environment
  11. India
  12. Infectious diseases
  13. Madras
  14. Mammals
  15. peer-reviewed
  16. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed