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The Behavioral Effects of Feeding Enrichment on a Zoo-Housed Herd of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana)

By Caroline Marie Driscoll

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A comprehensive study on the behavioral effects of feeding enrichment was conducted on six African elephants housed at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro, NC. The herd is comprised of are two adult males, three adult females, and one subadult female. The study was conducted over a 10-month period and consisted of focal sample observations across three conditions. Observations were recorded during the baseline condition (June to September) and continued through the introduction of feeding enrichment. Behavioral data were also collected when enrichment items were present but food presentation followed the historical husbandry routine, known as the experimental control (October to April). Data were collected on ten behaviors and analyzed to test for significant changes in the behaviors as a group, between the sexes, and for individual animals. The patterns that emerged from analysis for the herd as a whole did not necessarily apply to the analyses based on sex or for a given individual. In addition, individual elephants varied in the longevity of their behavioral changes to the feeding enrichment. These results provide evidence for the efficacy of feeding enrichment in general as well as for unique personalities and reactions to such enrichment. Furthermore, the findings of this study should encourage zoos to employ individual monitoring to enhance each elephant’s well-being.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Pages 159
Department Biology
Degree Master of Science
Language English
University Winthrop University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal roles
  3. Biology
  4. Elephants
  5. Enrichment
  6. Feeding
  7. open access
  8. Zoo and captive wild animals
  1. open access