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Expedition report: Elephant encounters: Studying Asian elephants (in the hills of northern Thailand) to increase their welfare and conservation (November 2018)

Authors:
  • Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
  • Biosphere Expeditions

Abstract and Figures

Abstract This study was a collaboration between Biosphere Expeditions and Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary. It used direct observations of five free-roaming captive Asian elephants. Their activity budgeting, foraging habits and social-association behaviour were observed using instantaneous, all-occurrence focal and scan-sampling methods respectively, with the aim for three separate data sets to be collected simultaneously. Sixteen hours of activity budget data collected on each of the five elephants showed that, like wild Asian elephants, the study subjects spent the majority of their time foraging, followed by walking. There was no significant difference between the behaviours displayed by the five study subjects. The foraging data collected during the expedition showed a high variety of plant species foraged on (31 species from 20 different families). The study subjects were characterised as a browse species. There was no significant difference in the plant species that the five study subjects foraged on. The elephant association data set used the proximity of the study subjects to examine social affiliation and closeness among the elephants. The elephants separated themselves into two separate groups during data collection. Similar to wild elephants, the family unit of females along with a juvenile were separate from the older males. Overall, the data collected are the first of their type on semi-wild free-roaming captive Asian elephants. There is much room for improvement in regards to management of captive elephant populations. The differences in behaviours exhibited by the study subjects when compared to other captive populations highlight this. Further research on the five study elephants will ensure data precision, with the intention of publication and the creation of an elephant management guide to be distributed to elephant venues in Thailand and around the world. บทคัดย่อ การศึกษาครั้งนี้เป็นความร่วมมือระหว่าง Biosphere Expeditions และมูลนิธิหัวใจรักษ์ช้างซึ่งทำการสังเกตโดยตรกับช้างเลี้ยงสายพันธุ์เอเชียที่มีอิสระในการหาอาหารจำนวน 5 เชือก ได้ทำการสังเกตกิจกรรม นิสัยการออกหาอาหาร และพฤติกรรมทางสังคมของช้างด้วยวิธีการสังเกตุทางตรง แบบภาพรวมและการสุ่มตัวอย่างตามลำดับ และการสุ่มตัวอย่างตามลำดับ โดยมีเป้าหมายที่จะเก็บรวบรวมข้อมูลสามชุดไปพร้อม ๆ กัน การเก็บข้อมูลกิจกรรมของช้างแต่ละเชือกเป็นเวลา 16 ชั่วโมง แสดงให้เห็นว่าตัวอย่างศึกษาใช้เวลาส่วนใหญ่ไปกับการออกหาอาหาร ดื่มน้ำ และเดินไปมา เช่นเดียวกับช้างป่าสายพันธุ์เอเชียทั่วไป ไม่พบความแตกต่างอย่างมีนัยสำคัญระหว่างพฤติกรรมของช้างทั้งห้าเชือกที่ทำการศึกษา ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับการกินอาหารที่เก็บรวบรวมระหว่างการสำรวจแสดงให้เห็นถึงความหลากหลายของสายพันธุ์พืชที่ช้างกิน (31 สายพันธุ์จาก 20 วงศ์) ตัวอย่างศึกษาถูกจัดให้อยู่ในประเภทสัตว์แทะเล็ม ไม่พบความแตกต่างอย่างมีนัยสำคัญของสายพันธุ์พืชที่ช้างทั้งห้าเชือกเลือกกิน ชุดข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับการรวมกลุ่มของช้างใช้ระยะห่างของตัวอย่างทดลองเพื่อศึกษาความสัมพันธ์ทางสังคม และความใกล้ชิดระหว่างช้างแต่ละเชือก ช้างแยกตัวออกเป็นสองกลุ่มระหว่างการรวบรวมข้อมูล เช่นเดียวกับพฤติกรรมของช้างป่า ครอบครัวที่ประกอบไปด้วยกลุ่มช้างเพศเมียกับลูกช้างวัยเด็กจะแยกออกจากกลุ่มช้างเพศผู้ที่มีอายุมากกว่า โดยรวมแล้ว การศึกษาครั้งนี้เป็นการเก็บรวบรวมข้อมูลของช้างเลี้ยงสายพันธุ์เอเชีย ที่เดินหาอาหารได้อย่างอิสระในสภาพแวดล้อมกึ่งป่าเป็นครั้งแรก ยังมีสิ่งที่ต้องศึกษาพัฒนาเพิ่มเติมอีกมากเกี่ยวกับการจัดการประชากรช้างเลี้ยง ความแตกต่างของพฤติกรรมเหล่านี้ ในตัวอย่างศึกษาจะเห็นได้อย่างขัดเจน เมื่อเปรียบเทียบกับประชากรช้างเลี้ยงอื่นๆ การวิจัยต่อยอดกับช้างห้าเชือกที่ทำการศึกษาจะช่วยรับรองความเที่ยงตรงของข้อมูล โดยมุ่งที่จะตีพิมพ์และสร้างแนวทางจัดการช้าง เพื่อเผยแพร่ไปยังสถานที่เลี้ยงช้างในประเทศไทยและทั่วโลก
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EXPEDITION REPORT
Expedition dates:
12
20 November 2018
Report published:
October 2019
Elephant encounters:
Studying Asian elephants in the hills of
ern Thailand to increase their
welfare and conservation
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
1
EXPEDITION
REPORT
Elephant encounters:
Studying Asian elephants in the hills of northern
Thailand to increase their welfare and conservation
Expedition dates:
12
20 November 2018
Report published:
October
2019
Authors:
Talia Gale
K
indred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
Matthias Hammer (editor)
Biosphere Expeditions
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
2
Abstract
This study was a collaboration between Biosphere Expeditions and Kindred Spirit Elephant
Sanctuary. It used direct observations of five free
-
roaming captive Asian e
lephants. Their activity
budgeting, foraging habits and social
-
association behaviour
were
observed using instantaneous,
all
-
occurrence focal and scan
-
sampling methods respectively, with the aim for three separate data
sets to be collected simultaneously.
Sixteen hours of activity budget data collected on each of the five elephants showed that,
like wild Asian elephants, the study subjects spent the majority of their time foraging, followed by
walking. There was no significant difference between the behavi
ours displayed by the five study
subjects.
The foraging data collected during the expedition showed a high variety of plant species
foraged on (31 species from 20 different families). The
study subjects were characteri
s
ed as a
browse species. There was n
o significant difference in the plant species that the five study
subjects foraged on.
The elephant association data set used the proximity of the study subjects to examine
social affiliation and closeness among the elephants. The elephants separated the
mselves into two
separate groups during data collection. Similar to wild elephants, the family unit of females along
with a juvenile were separate from the older males.
Overall, the data collected
a
re
the first of
t
heir
type on semi
-
wild free
-
roaming captive
Asian
elephants. There is much room for improvement in regards to management of captive elephant
populations. The differences in behaviours exhibited by the study subjects when compared to other
capti
ve populations highlight this.
Further research on the
five study elephants will ensure data
precision, with the intention of publication and the creation of an elephant management guide
to be
distributed to elephant venues in Thailand and around the world.
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iosphere Expeditions
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© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
3
Contents
Abstract /
บทคัดยอ
2
Contents
3
1. Expedition Review
4
1.1. Background
4
1.2. Research area
5
1.3. Dates
6
1.
4. Local conditions & support
6
1.5. Expedition scientist
s
7
1.6. Expedition leader
8
1.7. Expedition team
8
1.8. Partners
8
1.9. Acknowledgements
8
1.10. Further information & enquiries
9
1.11. Expedition budget
9
2. Activity budgeting, f
oraging and social behaviour…
10
2.1. Introduction
10
2.2. Materials & methods
11
2.3. Results
20
2.4. Discussion and conclusions
25
2.5. Literature cited
28
Appendix I: Expedition diary,
reports
and resources
30
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
4
1. Expedition Review
M
atthias
Hammer (editor)
Biosphere Expeditions
1.1. Background
Biosphere Expeditions runs wildlife conservation research expeditions to all corners of the
Earth. Our projects are not tours, photographic safaris or excursions, but genuine research
expedit
ions placing ordinary people with no research experience alongside scientists who
are at the forefront of conservation work. Our expeditions are open to all and there are no
special skills (biological or otherwise) required to join. Our expedition team mem
bers are
people from all walks of life, of all ages, looking for an adventure with a conscience and a
sense of purpose. More information about Biosphere Expeditions and its research
expeditions can be found at
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
This project report deals with an expedition to the
hills in
Northern
Thailand
that ran from
12
20 November 2018
with the aim of conducting
close
-
encounter behavioural, diet
and
other studies on Asian elephants
.
Asi
an elephants are the largest living mammals in Asia and can be split into three
subspecies;
Elephas maximus maximus
(Sri Lanka),
Elephas maximus sumatranus
(Sumatra)
and
Elephas maximus indicus
(mainland Asia). They are listed as Endangered
by the IUCN as
the total population has declined by over 50% in the last 65
-
70 years
(
Choudhury
et al. 2008)
. Asian elephants are threatened by poaching and habitat
degradation, as well a
s habitat
fragmentation leading to human
-
elephant conflict (Sukumar
2006). There are
approximately 40,000
50,000 wild Asian elephants left worldwide,
found in 13 countries in
South
and South East Asia (Sukumar 2006).
The wild elephant population in Thailand is around 3,000 and there is a domestic
population of approximately 3,500 (Suk
umar 2006, “Most Elephants” 2017).
In Thailand
the
elephant
is a highly revered species. Captive elephants have been part of Thai culture
for hundreds of years, both as w
ork animals and sacred beings.
After a ban
on
logging in
1989, many elephants in Thai
land w
ere out of work.
Elephant owners turned to the tourism
industry to continue to earn
a living from their elephants. However,
elephants in the
tourism industry are
often
kept in inadequate conditions, worked to exhaustion and offered
little or no veter
inary care.
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
(KSES)
returns
elephants
from the tourism industry back to the forest
to live in semi
-
wild conditions and studies them
in order to create more opportunities and strategies to re
-
wild more elephants in the futur
e.
It is only one of a handful of projects to do so and d
ue to the dense forest habitat wild
elephants live in, there are
also
very few studies on natural Asian elephant behaviour and
social structure.
KSES’s elephant herd presents
an ideal
opportunity
t
o study
the natural
behaviour of semi
-
wild Asian elephants in safe and natural surroundings.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
5
1.2. Research area
Thailand, officially the Kingdom of Thailand, is a country at the centre of the Indochinese
peninsula.
It is comprised of s
everal distinct ge
ographic regions. The north of the country
is
a
mountainous area
, t
he Thai highlands, with the highest point being Doi Inthanon in the
Thanon Thong Chai Range at 2,565 m. The expedition
took
place in the foothills of this
mountain
range (Fig. 1.2a).
Figure 1.2a.
Map and flag of Thailand with study site (red dot).
An overview of Biosphere Expeditions’ research sites,assembly
points, base camp and office locations is at
Google Maps
.
Most of Thailand, including the expedition study site, has a tropical savannah climate. The
south and the eastern tip of the east have a tropical m
onsoon climate. Thailand is the only
country in
South E
ast Asia to have escaped colonial rule. Buddhist religion, the monarchy
and the military have helped to shape
the country’s
society and politics.
The diversity of animals and plants in Thailand is
rem
arkable
. This is partly due to
Thailand’s geography:
a
land between two oceans on the Malaysian Peninsula, numerous
islands, plains in the central part of the country, the vast Mekong river and mountains
covered by jungles in the north.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
6
It has been estim
ated that Thailand supports 18,000 species of plant, 6,000 insect
species, 1,000 kinds of bird, and 300 species of mammal
1
. Even so, it is difficult not to
escape the conclusion that the kingdom's flora and fauna are heavily depleted, mainly due
to logging
of forests. As recently as 1950, over half the country's land area was forested
2
.
Today forest cover has been reduced by as much as 90% and barely a day goes by
before yet another scandal with an environmental tinge is revealed in the newspapers.
This con
cern for the environment though is comparatively recent, dating
back to
1973. In
that year, an army helicopter crashed, and as investigators picked over the wreckage they
discovered not just the bodies of the crew and passengers, but also the corpses of se
veral
protected wild animals. It became clear that the human victims
-
prominent army officers
-
had been illegally hunting in the Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. A public scandal
ensued and the environmental movement in Thailand was born.
KSES
, th
e expedition’s study site, was established in 2016 and comprises
highland and
mountain tropical rainforest ecosystems. Slopes vary between 25%
-
100% and the
highest elevation is 1
,
100 m.
There are four elephants in the study site who roam in an
area of ar
ound 14 square kilometres.
The flora consists of sphagnum bog, moist and
dense evergreen cloud forest, dry evergreen, pine, mixed deciduous teak and dipterocarp
forests.
The fauna includes
lar gibbons
(
Hylobates lar
)
, red muntjac
(
Muntiacus muntjak
)
,
India
n civets
(
Viverricula in
dica
and
Viverra zibetha)
,
Indian giant
flying squirrel
(
Petaurista
philippensis
)
,
as well as
a plethora of bird, reptile and amphibian species.
The area is
based around a Karen hilltribe village with a population of 450 people. The
Karen people
are well known for their close relationship with elephants, their traditional clothing weaving
and corn and rice agriculture.
1.3. Dates
The project ran
from 12
20
November 2018.
This
period
was
chosen to coincide with the
mildest climate
in terms of temperature extremes. It is also a good time of the year to
collect
data as the forest food for the elephants
,
as well
as
forest
biodiversity
,
was still
thriving
after the
rainy season.
1.4. Local conditions & support
Expedition base
The e
xpedition was based in
a traditional Karen hill tribe village
in a rural area.
Sleeping
was in homestays in single, twin or double (for couples) accommodation and there was a
central dining and meeting area for the expedition team in one of the local house
s. Overall
c
onditions
were
rustic
with
simple living quarters,
squat toilets and bucket showers. There
was e
lectricity
(220 V)
and
also mobile
phone
coverage, including 3G internet services.
All meals
were
prepared
by local community
cooks
and special die
ts
were
ca
tered for.
1
https://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Asia
-
and
-
Oceania/Thailand
-
FLORA
-
AND
-
FAUNA.html
2
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Def
orestation_in_Thailand
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
7
Weather
The Thai
climate is controlled by tropical monsoons and the weather in Thailand is
generally warm and humid across most of the country throughout most of the year. The
weather in northern Thailand (where the expedition
too
k
place) is determined by three
seasons: Between November and May the weather is mostly dry and the cool season and
hot season occur from November to February and March to May respectively. The rainy
season lasts from May to November and is dominated by th
e southwest monsoon, during
which time rainfall in most of Thailand
is at its heaviest.
The expedition took place towards
the end of the rainy and the beginning of the cool season with daytime highs of about
30ºC,
night
time lows of
about
10
ºC and
some
rai
nfall
in October, decreasing to very little
in November.
Field communications
There was a patchy 3G mobile phone network connection (Thai phone provider AIS 1
-
2
-
call) at base and in the study site.
The expedition leader posted a
diary with multimedia
content on Wordpress
and excerpts of this were mirrored on
Biosphere Expeditions’ social
media
site
s
.
Transport & vehicles
Team members made their own way to the Chiang Mai assembly point. From there
onwards and back to the assembly point all transport and vehicles
were
provided for the
expedition team.
After meeting at the
Chiang Mai
assembly point
,
the team
travel
led for
about five hours
to the study site an
d base camp by vehicle.
Medical support and incidences
The expedition leader
was
a trained first a
ider, and the expedition carried
a
comprehensive medical kit. Further medical support
was
prov
ided by a
clinic in Pang Un
(about 35 minutes drive) or a
hospital in
Khun Yuam
(about
1.5 hour drive).
All team
members were required to carry adequate travel insurance covering emergency medical
evacuation and repatriation.
Safety and emergency procedure
s
were
in place
, but did not
have to be invoked as there were no emergencies.
1.5.
Expedition
scientist
s
Talia Gale was born in Vancouver, Canada where she studied Zoology at the University of
British Columbia. Talia first came to Thailand in 2011 to st
udy Asian elephant foraging
behaviour. After working in Canada for 2 years in the field of veterinary science, she
returned to Thailand again to work with and study Asian elephants on a project near
Chiang Mai. Talia has been working in Thailand for over 4
years, both in the north studying
elephants and in the south studying sea turtles and general biodiversity. In May 2016 Talia
began working with
KSES
where her main focus has been designing and carrying out
studies on their elephant
s
’ social structure and
behaviours.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
8
Kerri McCrea was born in Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland and studied Zoology at Queen’s
University Belfast. Having already worked on conservation projects in Australia and Sri
Lanka, Kerri first came to Thailand in 2013 to help an elephant pro
ject with their
community and research efforts. In May 2016, Kerri and her local partner Sombat founded
KSES
and brought home the first 4 elephants to live in the surrounding forests. Kerri’s
main focus is to oversee all projects, including but not limited
to, research, community,
teaching, admin, project expansion and maintenance.
1.6. Expedition leader
Malika Fettak is half Algerian, but was born and educated in Germany. She majored in
Marketing & Communications and worked for more than a decade in bot
h the creative
field
,
and
in PR & marketing of a publishing company. Her love of nature, travelling and
the outdoors (and taking part in a couple of Biosphere expeditions) showed her that a
change of direction was in order. Joining Biosphere Expeditions in
2008, she runs the
German
-
speaking operations and the German office and leads expeditions all over the
world whenever she can. She has travelled extensively, is multilingual, a qualified off
-
road
driver, diver, outdoor first aider, and a keen sportswoman.
1.7. Expedition team
The expedition team was recruited by Biosphere Expeditions and consisted of a mixture of
ages, nationalities and backgrounds. They were (in alphabetical order and with country of
residence):
Wayne Curley (US
A), Barbara Felitti (USA)
, Neil
Goodall (UK), Melanie
Hitchcock (USA), Kuntusangpo Ling (Canada), Bruce
Loughb
r
i
dge (USA), Lindsay
Osborne (USA), Henning Scharpff (Germany).
1.8. Partners
On this expedition
Biosphere Expeditions’
main
partner
was
Kindred Spirit Elephant
Sanctuar
y & Foundation
(KSES). Their
mission is to bring as many elephants as possible
back to their natural environment to live in semi
-
wild conditions and provide an alternative
and sustainable livelihood for
the human communities with which they share a living
space.
One of KSES’s ultimate goal
s
is to stop and eventually
reverse
the
effects of
the
illegal elephant tra
de, as well as provide some much
-
need
ed
research to give insights into
natural
behaviour.
1.9
. Acknowledgements
The expedition provided
labour and funding
,
and permitted data collection to occur
throughout
the day, allowing for full data sets on
KSES
’s elephants to be collected.
We are
grateful to the
citizen scientist
volunteers, who not only dedicated their spare time to
helping but also
, through their expedition contributions, funded the research. A big thank
you to all the members of the local community, especially those who welcomed
expedition
participants
into their homes with open arms, who guided us through the forest, who
helped wi
th transportation and who cooked amazing meals. Biosphere Expeditions would
also like to thank members of the Friends of Biosphere Expeditions and donors for their
support.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
9
1.10
. Further information & enquiries
More background information on Biosphere
Expeditions in general and on this expedition
in particular including pictures, diary excerpts and a copy of this report can be found on the
Biosphere Expeditions website
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
Enq
uires should be
addressed to Biosphere Expeditions at the address given on the website.
1.11
. Expedition budget
Each team member paid
a contribution of
1,
88
0
per person per
nine
-
day slot
towards
expeditio
n costs
. The contribution covered accommodation a
nd meals, supervision and
induction, special research equipment and all transport from and to the team assembly
point. It did not cover excess luggage charges, travel insurance, personal expenses such
as telephone bills, souvenirs etc., or visa and other t
ravel expenses to and from the
assembly point (e.g. international flights). Details on how this contribution was spent are
given below.
Income
Expedition contributions
18,700
Expenditure
Staff
includes local and Biosphere Expeditions staff salaries and travel expenses
4,326
Research
includes equipment and other research expenses
227
Transport
includes fuel, taxis and other local transp
ort
404
Expedition base
includes board & lodging and
community support
2,392
Administration
includes miscellaneous fees & sundries
285
Team recruitment Thailand
as estimated % of annual PR costs for Biosphere Expeditions
8,676
Income
Expenditure
2,390
Total percentage spent directly on project
87%
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
10
Please note: Each expedition report is written as a stand
-
alone document that can be read without having to refer
back to previous reports. As suc
h, much of this section, which remains valid and relevant, is a repetition from
previous reports, copied here to provide the reader with an uninterrupted flow of argument and rationale.
2.
Activity budgeting, foraging and social behaviour of
free
-
roaming
semi
-
wild Asian elephants
Talia Gale
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
2.1
.
Introduction
Activity budget d
ata
Activity budgets are defined as the different activities an animal partakes in, in a given unit
of time.
The activity budgeting of elephants
c
an be used to compare wild and captive
populations. Differences, if found, can highlight areas in need of improvement in regards to
captive elephant management
(Baskaran et al. 2010, Ahamed 2015).
Most studies on
captive Asian elephants have had discrepanc
ies in the activity budgeting of their elephants
from wild populations (Elzanowski and Sergiel 2006, Varma et al. 2008, Mackey 2014
,
Samarasig
n
he and Ahamed 2016).
This study investigates the activity budgeting of
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary’s
(KSES’
s)
semi
-
wild elephants, the first of its kind
looking at captive elephant behaviour while living the most natural life possible. It is
hypothesized
that the activity budgets will closely mimic that of wild elephants.
Elephant foraging d
ata
As a mega
-
her
bivore, eating approximately 200
kg of food each day, Asian elephants are
generalist feeders, eating a vast selection of plant species
(Sukumar 2003, Sukumar
2006)
. Studies (Baskaran et al. 2010, Roy and Chowdhury 2014, Koirala et al. 2016)
have
shown that
different wild populations have strong feeding preferences and
even differ in
being
characteri
s
ed
as a browse or graze species. For most elephants in captivity, only a
handful of plant species make up the bulk of their diet, supplemented by vas
t amounts o
f
high
-
sugar treats. There is a great need for a research
-
based guideline regarding fodder
provided for captive elephants.
Our first
-
hand observational study of free
-
foraging
elephants
in their natural environment
will help to provide this.
Elephant asso
ciation d
ata
Over six
million years of divergence, African and Asian elephants have developed different
social structures due to different social, ecological and predation pressures
(
de Silva and
Witte
myer 2011)
. For years, research has focused on African
elephant social networks. It
is well established that they live in large multilevel family groups with strong social ties, led
by a matriarch. Males leave their maternal herd between the ages of 9
18 to form small,
male
-
only herds (Lee and Moss 1999). Kno
wledge of the structure of Asian elephant
soci
eties is less detailed,
but it is believed that they live in much smaller herds with less
association between individuals (de Silva and Witte
myer 2011, de Silva et al. 2011
).
Due to the dense
-
forest mountaino
us habitat Thailand’s elephants inhabit, there are few
first
-
hand observational studies on their social preferences. The work with
KSES’s
semi
-
wild herd will provide valuable insight into Asian elephant social behaviour.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
11
2.2. Materials and methods
Study
site: The study site is described in chapter 1.2. and a topographic map of the site is
shown
in Fig. 2.2a.
Figure
2.2
a
. Topographic map of study site
, located inside the yellow line.
For location of site in Thailand, see Fig. 1.2a.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
12
Study subjects
Figure
2.2b
.
Too
Meh
is
the
oldest
elephant
in
the
herd.
She
is
in
her
late
50s
and
spent
her
younger
days
working
in
the
logging
industry.
When
logging
was
banned
in
1989,
due
to
the
lack
of
forest
and
food
available,
she
was
brought
to
work
in
the
touris
t
camps
where
she
spent
her
life
entertaining
tourists.
She
spent
about
20
years
giving
elephant
rides
with
a
howdah,
the
iron
saddle
that
is
put
on
their
back
to
carry
tourists
and
gives
many
elephants
back
problems.
These
days
she
is
free
to
spend
her
da
ys
in
the
forest,
roaming,
foraging
and
interacting
with
her
daughter
&
grandsons.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
13
Figure
2.2c
.
Mae
Doom,
in
her
early
20s,
is
the
daughter
of
Too
Meh
&
aunt
of
Dodo
and
Gen
Thong.
Before
she
was
brought
to
KSES
,
she
was
living
and
working
in
eleph
ant
camps,
away
from
her
family.
At
KSES
she
has
been
reunited
with
her
mother
and
nephew
and
has
the
freedom
to
learn
from
her
mother
and
the
other
elephants.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
14
Figure
2.2d
.
Gen
Thong
is
the
youngest
elephant
of
the
herd
at
six
years
old.
When
Gen
Thong
was
young,
he
tragically
lost
his
mother
at
the
age
of
two.
His
mother
was
chained
to
a
tree
below
a
wasp
nest
in
a
tourist
camp.
The
wasp
nest
fell
on
her
head
and
she
was
stung
many
times.
Gen
Thong
was
with
his
mother
and
because
he
was
not
chained,
he
was
able
to
run
away.
His
mother
to
the
wasp
stings.
Gen
Thong
then
spent
several
years
on
a
chain
being
fed
bananas
by
tourists
and
giving
elephant
rides.
Now
back
in
the
forest,
he
learns
natural
behaviours
from
his
aunt,
grandmother,
brother
and
best
friend
Boon
Rott.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
15
Figure
2.2e
.
Boon
Rott
is
a
13
year
old
male
elephant,
who
had
also
lived
his
life
in
tourist
camps
giving
rides
and
performing
tricks.
When
he
was
born,
he
suffered
from
malnutrition
as
his
mother
was
unable
to
produce
enoug
h
milk.
His
mother
had
given
birth
a
few
times,
but
Boon
Rott
was
the
first
of
her
offspring
to
survive,
due
to
the
combination
of
her
care
and
their
hard
working
mahouts.
The
name
“Boon
Rott”
translates
to
the
“Lucky
One”
in
Thai.
He
is
now
able
to
roam
f
ree
in
the
forest,
choosing
when
and
how
to
interact.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
16
Figure
2.2f
.
Dodo
is
a
13
year
old
elephant
who
spent
ten
years
living
in
and
out
of
tourist
camps
giving
rides.
Dodo
can
be
unpredictable
and
due
to
this,
he
spent
most
of
his
life
before
KSES
in
confinement.
He
is
the
most
recent
elephant
to
j
oin
the
study
herd,
in
September
2018
after
his
owner
approached
KSES
asking
for
help.
He
is
the
brother
of
Gen
Thong,
nephew
of
Mae
Doom
and
grandson
of
Too
Meh
and
is
now
able
to
spend
his
days
roaming,
sociali
s
ing
and
foraging
with
his
family.
Elephan
t owners are given a monthly compensation in order for them to help provide for
their families. Kindred Spirit does not purchase elephants, as this has the potential to lead
to illegal trafficking and capture from the wild. Currently
KSES
only has the fund
ing to
support these five elephants, but hopes to bring more elephants to join them in the near
future.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
17
During the day
,
the elephants are free to roam in the forest surrounding the hilltribe village
and base location of Ban Naklang in the district of Mae
Chaem, Chiang Mai provin
ce,
Thailand. The mahouts (
elephant caretakers
)
,
who act as forest guides for KSES,
closely
watch over the elephants to ensure they stay within the forest boundaries and do not enter
any fields or cross any main roads. During observ
ation
s
the mahouts may interact with the
elephants to guide t
hem away from agricultural land;
direction is
primarily
given with vocal
commands.
During data collection days
the expedition
participants solely observed the
elephants.
Data collection started
at 8:00 and
ended
at 16:00
, and was split into one hour periods,
with the aim of collecting data sets (activity budget, elephant foraging and elephant
association) simultaneously.
Activity budget
Throughout the expedition, two full data sets (8:00
16:00
) were collected for each
elephant.
Data were c
ollected via instantaneous sampling at five
minute intervals. At each
interval, the observer noted the behaviour exhibited by the individual elephant using the
behavioural ethogram (Table 2.2
a). Cloud cover
(0
, 25, 50 or 100%)
and ambient
temperat
ure w
ere
also recorded at each five
minute interval.
Table 2.
2a.
Behavioural ethogram used
in the
field
.
Behaviour
Description
Bathing
Standing/laying in water or mud; spraying
water or mud over body with trunk
D
igging
Digging in soil using the foot (but not as part of a dusting behavio
u
r)
Drinking
Collecting water in the trunk and
spraying
it into the mouth
Dusting
Collecting soil and throwing it over the body/rubbing it into the skin (while standing still
or
walking), including digging in soil for this purpose
Exploring
Explorin
g any area of the environment; i
ncludes raising trunk to smell environment,
using trunk on ground to explo
re substrate or other objects; d
oes not include
exploring forage
Foraging
Co
llecting solid food with the trunk and placing it inthe mo
uth while standing or
walking; i
ncludes tearing down tree and branches and exploring forage
Mahout
interaction
Any interaction with a mahout
Rolling
Rolling in soil or mud (but not as part of pla
ying with another individual)
Scratching
Scratching or rubbing any body part with another part of the body, or with an
inanimate object
Socializing
Interacting with other individuals via touch of anybody part (not as part of courtship)
Social Bathing
Interacting with other individuals via touch of anybody part while bathing
Social Foraging
Interacting with other individuals via touch of anybody part while foraging
Sex
Courting or being courted or mounting another elephant or being mounted by anothe
r
elephant of either sex
Standing
Standing motionless
Walking
Walking (except while feeding)
Other
Any other behaviour
Cannot see
Elephant behaviour is not visible or not distinguishable
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-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
18
Figure 2.2
g
.
Pictures of the expedition participants
t
rekking through forests and crossing rivers to reach the elephants each day.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
19
Elephant association
The elephant association data set used proximity to examine social affiliation among the
herd.
Data were c
ollected via scan sampling at five
minute interva
ls. At each interval the
identity of an elephants’ nearest neighbour and next nearest neighbour, and
the
approximate distance between them
,
were recorded. The distance between two elephant
s
was split into 4 categories: (1) touching, (2) two trunks reach ap
art
-
approximately 3m, (3)
one elephant length apart
approximately 6m, or (4) over 6m apart
.
Elephant foraging
Data were collected via all occurrence
focal
sampling
.
As the elepha
nt selected
plants to
forage, the observer recorded the start and end
time of the foraging bout, the name of the
plant (if known by the mahouts or found in the field guide) and the part eaten by the
(bark, fruit, leaf, root, twig
or stem). If the plant
was
not already in the field guide,
a description of the plant a
nd detailed photos of the entire specimen were taken. The GPS
coordinates as well as the elevation were recorded at the start of the observation period.
Statistical a
nalysis
Activity budget:
At each interval, if only one behaviour was observed
in
a give
n elephant, it
was given a value of 1
;
if two behaviours were occurring simultaneously, they were both
given a value of 0.5. Incidences where the elephant was recorded as ‘Cannot See’ were
omitted from analysis. A one
-
way ANOVA
(Microsoft Excel)
was perfor
med
across all
behaviours for the five elephants.
Foraging: A one
-
way ANOVA (Microsoft Excel) was performed across all five elephants
and the species of plants consumed.
Training of expedition participants
In this study, data collection was performed b
y volunteer citizen scientists with no previous
knowledge of wildlife research and conservation, or elephant research and behaviour.
Training included an introduction to differentiating elephant behaviours and individual
elephants. Expedition members had t
o pass an elephant identification and behaviour test
prior to collecting data to ensure accurate data collection
and quality
.
A training hike and training data collection period was
conducted
in the forest to allow the
participants to adjust to the hards
hip
s of collecting field data (e.g.
walking on steep rocky
slope
s while recording elephant
behaviour) prior to recorded data collection periods.
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-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
20
2.3.
Results
Activity b
udget
During the study, 192 incidences of behaviours were recorded for each elephan
t, tota
ll
ing
960. For 96 incidences, the animal was out of sight (recorded as ‘cannot see’). Out of the
16
behaviours listed on the
behavioural ethogram (Table 2.2
a), the elephants displayed 13
behaviours.
Digging, rolling and sex were never observed. For
the purpose of data
analysis, social bathing and social foraging were added to the socialising category and
drinking was added to other. Foraging was the most dominant behaviour observed, with
an average of 63% of the time spent foraging. This was followed
by walking at an average
of 12%, standing at 8%, socialising at 4% and dusting, exploring and scratching, all at 3%.
(Figure 2.3
a).
There was no significant difference in
the behaviours observed by the five
individual elephants (o
ne
-
way ANOVA F=
1.56E
-
15
,
p=
1
).
M
ean temperature for each
hour
-
interval of
data collection rang
ed
from 23ºC to 32º
C.
Figure 2.3
a
.
Pooled behaviours
displayed by the elephants (n=5
)
.
Elephant Association
During every observation period, the elephants separated themselves int
o two groups,
with Dodo and Boon Rott staying together and Gen Thong, Mae Doom and Too Meh
staying together. The two groups only crossed paths for one recorded data point that has
been eliminated from data analysis. As such, data analysis looks at the two
groups
separately.
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-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
21
Looking at Gen Thong, there were 149 data points collected where the association to at
least one other individual could be determined. Gen Thong was found touching both of the
other elephants (Mae Doom and Too Meh)
for
1.3% of the obs
erved encounters. He was
within a trunk’s reach of at least one other individual
for
40.9% of the time. He was over 6
m apart from another individual
for
43.0% of the observed encounters.
For Mae Doom, 149 data points where the association to at least on
e other individual
could be determined were collected. Mae Doom was touching two other individuals 2.0%,
within a trunk’s reach of at least one other elephant 53.0%, and over 6 m away from
another individual 32.9% of the observed encounters.
For Too Meh,
148 data points where the association to at least one other individual could
be determined were collected. She was touching two other individuals 1.4%, within a
trunk’s reach of at least one other elephant 34.5%, and over 6 m away from another
individual
45.3% of the observed encounters (Figure 2.3b).
Looking at Gen Thong and Mae Doom as a pair, they were touching 8.2% of their
encounters, within a trunk’s reach 28.6%, one elephant length apart 12.2% and over 6 m
apart 51.0% of their observed encounters.
Gen Thong and Too Meh were touching 4.7%, with a trunk’s reach 13.5%, one elephant
length apart 12.2% and over 6 m apart 69.9% of their encounters.
Mae Doom and Too Meh were touching 7.5%, within a trunk’s reach 24.7%, one elephant
length apart 10.3% a
nd over 6 m apart 57.5% of their encounters (Figure 2.3c).
Boon Rott and Dodo’s association was recorded on 107 occasions. They were touching
7.5% of the observed association occurrences, within a tru
n
k’s reach 43.3%, one elephant
length apart 8.5% and
over 6 m apart 42.5% of the observed association occurrences
(Figure 2.3d).
Figure 2.3b.
Individual elephants’
p
ercentage of
observed associations spent
among the herd
.
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-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
22
Figure 2.3c.
Percentage of
observed associations at different distances for
eac
h elephant pair
-
(1)
t
ouching,
(2) two
trunks reach apart
approximately
3
m,
(
3
) one elephant length apart
approximately 6 m
,
(
4
)
over 6
m apart
.
.
Figure 2.3d.
Percentage of
association occurrences between Boon Rott and Dodo at different distance
s
-
(1)
t
ouching,
(2) two trunks reach apart
approximately
3
m,
(
3
) one elephant length apart
approximately 6 m
,
(
4
)
over 6
m apart
.
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-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
23
Foraging
During the expedition,
survey
s were conducted for
1320 minutes
;
649 minutes of foraging
data were recorded,
with 34 different species consumed, 25 of which have been identified
t
o the genus level, and another six
to the family. The plants consumed
and identified
come
from 20 different families:
Anacardiaceae (3 species), Apocynaceae (1 species),
Arecaceae (1 sp
ecies),
Clusiaceae (1 species),
Cucurbitaceae (1 species),
D
icotyledonous (1 species),
Dioscoreaceae (1 species), Dipterocarpaceae (1 species),
Fabaceae (5 species), Fagaceae (2 species), Lamiaceae (1 species), Menispermaceae (1
species), Moraceae (1 speci
es), Myrtaceae (1 species), Orchidaceae (1 species),
Poaceae (5 species), Primulaceae (1 species), Rubiaceae (1 species), Solanaceae (1
species), Zingiberaceae (1 species).
The elephants consumed
91.8%
browse species (ba
mboos, trees, shrubs and herbs).
G
r
asses, including corn
, only made up 8.2
% of the
foraged food
.
Aside from two species
of bamboo that made up 37.1% of the species consumed, the most commonly consumed
species were
Sphat
h
olobus
sp.
(13.6%),
Gluta usitata
(8.0
%)
,
Embelia
sp. (7.9%),
Shorea
ob
tus
a
(7.1%) and
Pennisetum purpureum
(6.2%) (Table 2.3a).
There was no significant difference in
the species foraged on by the five individual
elephants (o
ne
-
way ANOVA F=0.
099
, p=0.9
87
).
Table 2.3a
. All consumed plant species recorded during the 2018 exp
edition.
Species
Type
Part
(
s
)
consumed
% of foraging
encounters
Bamboo
(Vami)
Poaceae family
Bamboo
Leaves
19.9%
Akar malam
Sphatolobus sp.
Climber
Leaves
13.6%
Bamboo
(Vasu)
Poaceae family
Bamboo
Leaves
11.9%
Burmese varnish tree
Gluta usitata
Tre
e
Bark
8.0%
Embelia
sp.
Tree
Leaves
7.9%
Balan/Taengwood
Shorea obtusa
Tree
Leaves, stem
7.1%
Elephant grass
Pennisetum purpureum
Grass
Whole plant
6.2%
Ring
-
cupped oak
Quercus kerrii
Tree
Fruit
4.0%
Mountain date palm
Phoenix loureiroi
Tree
Whole
plant
3.1%
Bean
Mucuna
sp.
Climber
Stem
2.2%
Golden gardenia
Gardenia sootepensis
Tree
Bark
1.8%
Cashew family
Spondias pinnata
Tree
Bark
1.8%
Unidentified
(Gammay)
Poaceae family
Grass
Whole plant
1.5%
Cluster fig tree
Ficus
racemos
a
Tree
Leaves,
stem
1.5%
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-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germ
any, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
24
Table 2.3a
(continued)
. All consumed plant species recordedduring the 2018 expedition.
Species
Type
Part
(
s
)
consumed
% of foraging
encounters
Deciduous climber
Tinospora crispa
Climber
Leaves, stem
1.2%
Cuddapah almond
Buchanania lanzan
Tr
ee
Leaves
0.8%
Unidentified
(Sah lay dah)
Tree
Leaves
0.8%
Mampat
Cratoxylum formosum
Tree
Roots, stem
0.6%
Turkey Berry
Solanum torvum
Shrub
Whole plant
0.6%
Orchid
Dendrobium
sp.
Shrub
Whole plant
0.6%
Unidentified
(Nuway Say)
Dicotyledonous fami
ly
Shrub
Stem
0.6%
Unidentified
(T106)
Tree
Leaves
0.6%
African dream herb
Entada rheedii
Climber
Stem
0.6%
Corn
Zea mays
Grass
Whole plant
0.5%
Dioscorea
sp.
Climber
Stem
0.5%
Pachyrhizus
sp.
Climber
Stem
0.3%
Quercus
sp.
Tree
Fruit
0.3%
Lemon Guav
a
Syzygium megacarpum
Tree
Fruit
0.3%
Unidentified
(Saykatoo) Apocynaceae
family
Tree
Bark
0.3%
Unidentified
(Puh) Zingiberaceae
family
Herb
Whole plant
0.3%
Teak
Tectona grandis
Tree
Leaves
0.2%
Albizia
sp.
Tree
Leaves
0.2%
Unidentified
(Sah Koh
B
ley)
Tree
Stem
0.2%
Pumpkin
Cucurbita maxima
Climber
Fruit
0.2%
*NOTE: Not all of the collected plant samples have been identified yet. Remaining unidentified samples are currently with
Dr. Prachaya of Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens.
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Biosphere Expeditions, an int
ernational not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Official
ly accredited member of the International Union for
the
Conservation
of Nature
25
2.4. Discussion a
nd conclusions
Activity budgets
Comparing our results from the 2018 expedition to those from the 2017 expedition, we see
only minor differences. The main similarity is that the majority of time
59% (2017) and
63% (2018)
was spent foraging (Gale and H
ammer 2018). The behaviour of
KSES
’s
elephants appears to more closely
match
those of wild elephants, with m
any studies
conclud
ing
that wild Asian elephants spend a majority of their time feeding (Bas
karan et al.
2010, Ahamed 2015)
. When looking at capti
ve elephants,
there is more variation in which
behaviours are dominant
:
Elzanowski and Sergiel (2006) concluded
that an elephant at
Municipal Zoo (
Poland
)
spent 52% of its
time in stereotypic behaviour (bouts of
rhythmically repeated movements including sw
aying and head
-
bobbing). A
study
examining captive elephants in India
(Varma et al. 2008)
, comparing forest camp
elephants, temple elephants and zoo
elephants, when pooled together,
found
that
the
elephants fed only 29%
of the time.
Mackey (2014) found ele
phants at San Diego Zoo
spent the majority of t
heir time feeding and standing.
Samarasig
n
he and Ahamed (2016)
,
looking at captive orphaned elephants in Sri Lanka
,
found their behaviours were
dominated by feeding.
Social association
The present study sho
wed a social preference that matched that of wild elephants; a
closely related fe
male herd,
and solitary males (Santiapillai et al. 1984, de Silva et al
2011). Long
-
term anecdotal evidence of
KSES
’s elephant herd suggests this is not always
the case. Often
Boon Rott, a young male elephant (13 years old), will associate and
interact with the core female herd (Too Meh and Mae Doom), and interact with the juvenile
(Gen Thong). During the present study, Boon Rott only crossed paths with the females
very briefly
. The discrepancy between the collected data and previous anecdotal reports
displays the need for long
-
term, repeat data collection in order to have a full picture of the
social preferences of those elephants.
Among both the females and males, touch and
being within touching distance of another
elephant was commonly recorded, touching being something that is significant in Asian
elephant societies (Makecha et al. 2012)
.
Dodo, the newest member of Kindred Spirit’s herd
,
was only introduced to the project
two
months prior to the expedition. It will be interesting to watch the herd dynamics over time
to see the changes that occur with new members.
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Biosphere Expeditions, an int
ernational not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Official
ly accredited member of the International Union for
the
Conservation
of Nature
26
Diet analysis
The present study recorded over
30
species foraged on
by the five study elephants during
1320
survey
minutes
and 649 minutes of observed foraging. When comparing this to the
findings of the 2017 expedition (Gale and Hammer 2018), 162 species consumed during
8184 foraging minutes, we see an over 500% increase in the number of species recorded
,
presu
mably due to a
significant
increase in observation time spanning seasonal changes
as well as changes in the location of the elephants in the forest.
Given this,
the need for
long
-
term studies on elephant foraging is
obvious
.
Our analysis of plant species
foraged
shows
utilization
of a
large
selection of species
within the study area. Browse dominated the diet of
our
study elephants and this result is
similar
to elephants in dense
-
mixed and open
-
mixed forests in Northern West Bengal,
India (Roy and Chowdhu
ry 2014).
By contrast, g
rass dominated the diet of elephants in
deciduous and dry thorn forests of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in southern India (Baskaran
et al. 2010). In Nepal, seasonal changes dictated whether the elephants preferred browse
or graze food
sources (Koirala et al. 2016). The
significant
differences in diets
of
Asian
elephants from different areas
shows
the need for
more
research into the preferred diet of
individual elephants in captivity. The American Zoo Association Guidelines for Elephant
Mana
gement and Care (2012) suggest
elephant diet should “
inclu
de hay (e.g. meadow or
timothy)
supplemented with fruits, vegetables, a pelleted supplement or grain
” and that
“fresh
browse should be mad
e available daily, if possible.” This type of
diet, howe
ver,
would only be suitable for elephants originating from grassland habitats, where graze
makes up a majority of their diet. For captive elephants in Thailand, there are no standards
for elephant dietary requirements, but anecdotal evidence suggests that
at many tourist
venues graze species, including
on
grass and corn,
make up the majority of
the
diet.
Natural behaviour and the implications for captive elephants
An expedition such as this enabled observations of captive Asian elephants displaying
natura
l elephant behaviours while living in semi
-
wild conditions. The data collected
showed that
KSES
’s elephants’ behaviours more closely mimic those of wild Asian
elephants, than of elephants in captivity.
The expedition
also
highlighted some areas for impro
vement in regards to management of
captive elephant populations.
For example, the discrepancies in the amount of time an
elephant dedicates to feeding in captivity vs. KSES’s elephants vs. those in the wild
demonstrate the importance of feeding as part of
natural behaviour.
There is a need to improve captive conditions so that the behaviour of elephants in
captivity can mimic those in the wild. This is possible, as demonstrated in this study by the
lack of stereotypic behaviours observed in KSES’s elephan
ts compared to other captive
elephant studies.
©
Biosphere Expeditions, an int
ernational not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Official
ly accredited member of the International Union for
the
Conservation
of Nature
27
This study’s contribution to elephant welfare and conservation
Understanding the diet, foraging ecology and behaviour of captive elephants living in semi
-
wild conditions can also contribute to wild elephant
conservation efforts.
Knowing
diet
composition and foraging ecology of Thailand’s elephants
will
help conservationists and
wildlife managers in developing
effective
strategies to improve wildlife management.
This study highlighted the need for long ter
m studies of Asian elephant behavio
u
r, social
preferences and diet.
Outlook
As this was the
second
Biosphere Expedition
s project
in conjunction with
KSES
in
Thailand, further research is needed to ensure p
recision of collected data. T
his was
also
the fi
rst study investigating
social association of semi
-
wild Asian elephants. As such,
the
study needs to be replicated in order to have a full picture of the situation.
As the elephants move to different areas of the forest throughout the study site, the fore
st
composition differs, opening up new foraging opportunities, potentially adding species to
the list of foraged plants.
In this expedition alone, two new plant samples were added to
the species list of plants consumed by the elephants.
Furthermore, in yea
rs to come, as
the number of elephants under
KSES
’s care expands, the data sets can be expanded to
incorporate more individual elephants in different age/sex classes.
Summary and action points for next expedition
Key findings of this expedition:
A cont
inuing detailed description of the diets of elephants free
-
roaming in the
forests of Northern Thailand; two new plant samples (potential species that had not
been recorded to be consumed before) were added to the species list
A description of the behaviour
al patterns of five captive elephants free
-
roaming in
the forest
A description of the social association of five captive elephants free
-
roaming in the
forest
Actions for the next expedition and future research work:
Continue to record observations for th
e elephant association and elephant activity
data sets to ensure data
quantity and quality
Publish foraging and activity budget data in a peer
-
reviewed journal and once
published, create an elephant management guide to be distributed to elephant
venues in
Thailand and around the world
A be
ehive fencing project is in its early
stages. Once underway, a new data set
using camera trapping to monitor the effectiveness of the fences will be created
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Biosphere Expeditions, an int
ernational not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Official
ly accredited member of the International Union for
the
Conservation
of Nature
28
2.5. Literature cited
Ahamed AMR. 2015. Activity Time Budget o
f the Asian Elephant (
Elephas maximus
Linn.)
in the Wild. Tr Bio Sci 8(12): 3024
-
3028.
American Zoo Association (AZA). 2012. The American Zoo Association Guidelines for
Elephant Management and Care. Silver Spring (MD): American Zoo Association.
Baskaran
N, Balasubramanian M, Swaminathan S, Desai AA. 2010. Feeding ecology of
the Asian Elephants (
Elephas maximus
) in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, Southern India. J
BNHS 107(1): 3
13.
Choudhury A, Lahiri Choudhury DK, Desai A, Duckworth JW, Easa PS, Johnsing
h AJT,
Fernando P, Hedges S, Gunawardena M, Kurt F, Karanth U, Lister A, Menon V, Riddle H,
Rübel A, Wikramanayake E. (IUCN SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group). 2008.
Elephas
maximus
. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008
http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2008.RLTS.T7140A12828813.en
.
de Silva S, Ranjeewa A, Kryazhimskiy S. 2011. The dynamics of social networks among
female Asian elephants. BMC Ecology 11: 17.
S, Wittemyer G. 2011. A comparison of social organization in Asian elephants
and African savannah elephants. Int J of Primatol 33(5): 1125
-
1141.
Elzanowski A, Sergiel A. 2006. Stereotypic behaviour of a female Asiatic elephant
(
Elephas maximus
) in a zoo
. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 9(3): 223
-
32.
Gale T, Hammer M. 2018.
Elephant encounters: Studying Asian elephants in the hills of
northern Thailand to increase their welfare and conservation. Expedition report available
via
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/reports
.
Koirala RK, Raubenhaimer D, Aryal A, Pathak ML, Ji W. 2016. Feeding preferences of the
Asian elephant (
Elephas maximus
) in Nepal. BMC Ecol 16: 54.
Lee PC, Moss CJ. 1999. The social context for
learning and behavioural development
among wild African elephants. In: Box HO, Gibson KR, editors. Mammalian social learning:
Comparative and ecological perspectives. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press.
p. 102
125.
Mackey AD 2014. Effects of Anima
l Management Changes on the Activity Budgets and
Walking Rates of Zoo Elephants [dissertation]. Hattiesburg (MS): University of Southern
Mississippi.
Makecha R, Fad O, Kuczaj SA. 2012 The Role of Touch in the Social Interactions of Asian
Elephants (
Eleph
as maximus
). Int J Comp Psych. 25: 60
-
82
Most Elephants in Thailand Registered for DNA Checks. (2017 Feb 10) Retrieved from:
http://www.nationmultimedia.com/news/national/30306073
.
©
Biosphere Expeditions, an int
ernational not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Official
ly accredited member of the International Union for
the
Conservation
of Nature
29
Roy M, Chowdhury S. 2014. Foraging Ecology of the Asian Elephant in Northern West
Bengal. Gajah 40: 18
-
25.
Samarasignhe WMP, Ahamed AMR. 2016. A Preliminary study on Activity Budgets of
Asian Elephant (
Elephas maximus
Linn.) at Elephant Orphanage. Bull E
nv Pharmacol Life
Sci 5(7): 47
-
50.
Santiapillai C, Chambers MR, Ishwaran N. 1984. Aspects of the ecology of the Asian
Elephas maximus
L. in the Ruhuna National Park, Sri Lanka. Bio con 29(1): 47
-
61.
Sukumar R. 2003. The Living Elephants: Evolut
ionary Ecology, Behavior, and
Conservation. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sukumar R. 2006. A brief review of the status, distribution and biology of wild Asian
elephants
Elephas maximus.
Int. Zoo Yb. 40:1
-
8.
Varma S, Rao S, Ganguly S, Bhat H. 2008.
Identification of an effective and robust model
of elephant keeping and keeper welfare; Insights based on the activity budget of elephants
in captivity and mahout
-
elephant interaction in Karnataka. Bangalore (India): Compassion
Unlimited Plus Action and As
ian Nature Conservation Foundation. Technical Report 3c.
©
Biosphere Expeditions, an int
ernational not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Official
ly accredited member of the International Union for
the
Conservation
of Nature
30
Appendix
I
:
Expedition diary,
reports
and res
ources
A multimedia expedition diary is available on
https://blog.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/category/expedition
-
blogs/thailand
-
2018/
.
All expedition reports, including this and previous expedition reports,
ar
e available on
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/reports
.
More pictures, videos, media coverage of the expedition are available
via
www.bios
phere
-
expeditions.org/thailand
.
... Background information, location conditions and the research area are as per Gale & Hammer (2019). This expedition conducted close-encounter studies on a herd of five Asian elephants at Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary (KSES) in the hills of Northern Thailand. ...
... The study site and animals are as per Gale & Hammer (2019). In summary, KSES is home to five elephants. ...
... Foraging was the most prominent behaviour recorded for the elephants' activity budget, with the elephants foraging for 52% of the study time. Our results align with those from the 2017 and 2018 expeditions, which found foraging accounted for 59% and 63% of the elephants' activity budget, respectively Hammer 2018, Gale andHammer 2019), corroborating other studies that also found that wild Asian elephants spend the majority of their time foraging (45% to 75%) (Ahamed 2015, Sukumar 2003. Other than foraging, the elephants in our study were observed exploring, socialising and walking. ...
Research
Full-text available
Abstract This study was a collaboration between Biosphere Expeditions and Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary (KSES). Direct observation methods were used by citizen scientists to collect three separate data sets on five free-roaming semi-wild Asian elephants simultaneously: activity budgeting (via instantaneous sampling), foraging habits (via all-occurrence focal sampling) and social-association behaviour (via scan sampling). Sixteen hours of activity budget data collected on each of the five elephants showed that, like wild Asian elephants, the study subjects spent the majority of their time foraging, followed by exploring. There was no significant difference between the behaviours displayed by the five elephants. The foraging data collected during the expedition showed a high variety of plant species foraged on (17 species from seven different families). The elephants foraged almost exclusively on browse (99.4%) rather than graze species (0.6%). There was no significant difference in the plant species that they foraged on. The elephant association data set used the proximity of the study subjects to examine social affiliation and closeness among the elephants. The elephants had varying social preferences. Four elephants regularly associated with one another, but did not consistently segregate into distinct groups. One male elephant was mostly observed on his own (87%). Close association was commonly observed amongst the youngest male and two females (42%, 45% and 27%) and less in the teenage males (17% and 13%) Overall, the data collected are the first of their type on semi-wild free-roaming Asian elephants. There is much room for improvement in regards to management of captive elephant populations. The differences in behaviours exhibited by the elephants in this study, when compared to other captive populations, highlight this. We posit that if captive elephant populations were able to act more naturally, their behaviours and of those in this study would be more similar. Further research on the five study elephants will ensure data precision, with the intention of publication and the creation of an elephant management guide to be distributed to elephant venues in Thailand and around the world to achieve this. As a step towards this, KSES and Biosphere Expeditions have just published a research article on the foraging ecology of the study elephants in a peer-reviewed journal. บทคัดย่อ การวิจัยครั้งนี้เป็นความร่วมมือระหว่างไบโอสเฟียร์เอ็กซ์เพดิชั่นส์ (Biosphere Expeditions) และมูลนิธิหัวใจรักษ์ช้าง คณะนักวิจัยได้ใช้วิธีการเฝ้าสังเกตโดยตรง เพื่อจัดเก็บข้อมูลสามชุดจากช้างสายพันธุ์เอเชียจำนวนห้าเชือก ที่เลี้ยงแบบปล่อยอิสระในสภาพแวดล้อมกึ่งธรรมชาติ อันประกอบไปด้วย การจำแนกกิจกรรม (จากการเฝ้าสังเกตพฤติกรรมตัวอย่าง), พฤติกรรมการหากิน (จากการเฝ้าสังเกตช้างตัวอย่างแต่ละเชือก), และพฤติกรรมทางสังคม (จากการเฝ้าสังเกตช้างตัวอย่างแต่ละเชือก) จากการเฝ้าติดตามเก็บข้อมูลช้างแต่ละเชือก เป็นเวลา 16 ชั่วโมง รวมจำนวน 5 เชือก ได้แสดงให้เห็นว่า เช่นเดียวกับช้างสายพันธุ์เอเชียในธรรมชาติ ช้างกลุ่มตัวอย่างในการวิจัยจะใช้เวลาส่วนใหญ่ไปในการหาเดินอาหาร และสำรวจพื้นที่ และไม่พบว่ามีความแตกต่างอย่างมีนัยสำคัญในการแสดงออกทางพฤติกรรมของช้างทั้ง 5 เชือก ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับการเดินหาอาหารที่บันทึกไว้ได้ในระหว่างกรวิจัยครั้งนี้ได้ชี้ให้เห็นว่าช้างได้เลือกกินพืชอาหารที่หลากหลาย (17ชนิดจาก 7 วงศ์ที่แตกต่างกันออกไป) ช้างจะหากินกิ่งไม้ใบไม้เป็นส่วนใหญ่ (99.4%) มากกว่าที่จะกินหญ้า (0.6%) และไม่มีความแตกต่างอย่างมีนัยสำคัญในชนิดชองพืชที่ช้างกินเป็นอาหาร ชุดข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับปฏิสัมพันธ์ของช้าง ได้ใช้ระยะห่างของช้างแต่ละเชือกในการประเมินความเชื่อมโยงทางสังคมและความใกล้ชิดระหว่างช้างแต่ละเชือก ช้างมีการทิ้งระยะห่างทางสังคมที่แตกต่างกันไป ช้างสี่เชือกมีปฏิสัมพันธ์กันอยู่เป็นประจำ แต่ก็ไม่ได้จับกลุ่มกันอยู่อย่างเห็นได้ชัด ช้างเพศผู้หนึ่งเชือกมักจะสังเกตเห็นได้ว่าแยกตัวอยู่โดยลำพังโดยชัดเจน (87%) มักจะเป็นที่พบเห็นโดยทั่วไปว่าช้างที่อายุน้อยที่สุด ทั้งเพศผู้หนึ่งเชือก และเพศเมียสองเชือกมักจะรวมกลุ่มกันอยู่อย่างใกล้ชิดอยู่เสมอ (42%, 45% และ 27%) และพบเห็นได้น้อยลงในช้างวัยรุ่นเพศผู้ (17% และ 13%) โดยภาพรวมแล้ว ข้อมูลที่ได้มาถือว่าเป้นครั้งแรกที่มีการบันทึกข้อมูลช้างสายพันธุ์เอเชียในลักษณะที่มีการปล่อยอิสระในสภาพแวดล้อมกึ่งธรรมชาติ และยังควรได้รับการปรับปรุงอีกมากในส่วนของการบริหารจัดการประชากรช้างในที่เลี้ยง ประเด็นที่สำคัญก็คือ ความแตกต่างด้านพฤติกรรมที่ช้างได้แสดงให้เห็นในการวิจัยครั้งนี้ เมื่อเปรียบเทียบกับประชากรช้างในที่เลี้ยงกลุ่มอื่นๆ เราสรุปได้ว่า หากประชากรช้างในที่เลี้ยงได้รับโอกาสให้แสดงออกพฤติกรรมตามธรรมชาติมากยิ่งขึ้น พฤติกรรมการแสดงออกของช้างเหล่านี้และช้างกลุ่มตัวอย่างในการวิจัยก็คงจะมีความคล้ายคลึงกันมากยิ่งขึ้น การวิจัยอย่างต่อเนื่องกับช้างกลุ่มตัวอย่างทั้ง 5 เชือกจะช่วยยืนยันความถูกต้องแม่นยำของข้อมูล โดยมีจุดมุ่งหมายที่จะตีพิมพ์และสร้างแนวทางสำหรับการบริหารจัดการช้าง เพื่อเผยแพร่ไปยังสถานที่เลี้ยงช้างทั้งในประเทศไทยและทั่วโลกให้สามารถบรรลุเป้าหมายเดียวกันนี้ และปัจจุบันนี้มูลนิธิหัวใจรักษ์ช้างกำลังดำเนินการให้มีการตรวจสอบเอกสารการวิเคราะห์ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับพฤติกรรมการหากินของช้างกลุ่มตัวอย่างอีกครั้ง
Research
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Abstract This study was a collaboration between Biosphere Expeditions and Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary. It used direct observations of four free-roaming captive Asian elephants. Their activity budgeting, foraging habits and social-association behaviour was observed using instantaneous, all-occurrence focal and scan-sampling methods respectively, with the aim for three separate data sets to be collected simultaneously. Sixteen hours of activity budget data collected on each elephant showed that, like wild Asian elephants, the study subjects spent the majority of their time foraging, followed by drinking and walking. There was no significant difference between the behaviours displayed by the four study subjects. The foraging data collected during the expedition was combined with data collected by the project scientist since January 2017 and showed a high variety of plant species foraged on (162 species from 44 different families). The study subjects were characterised as a browse species. There was no significant difference in the plant species that the four study subjects foraged on. The elephant association data set used the proximity of the study subjects to examine social affiliation and closeness among the elephants. Insufficient social-association data were collected for analysis. Overall, the data collected is the first of its type on semi-wild free-roaming captive Asian elephants. There is much room for improvement in regards to management of captive elephant populations. The differences in behaviours exhibited by the study subjects when compared to other captive populations highlight this. Further research on the four study elephants will ensure data precision, with the intention of publication and the creation of an elephant management guide to be distributed to elephant venues in Thailand and around the world. บทคัดย่อ การศึกษาครั้งนี้เป็นความร่วมมือระหว่าง Biosphere Expeditions และมูลนิธิหัวใจรักษ์ช้างซึ่งทำการสังเกตโดยตรงกับช้างเลี้ยงสายพันธุ์เอเชียที่มีอิสระในการหาอาหาร ได้ทำการสังเกตกิจกรรม, นิสัยการออกหาอาหาร และพฤติกรรมทางสังคมของช้างด้วยวิธีการแบบทันที, แบบภาพรวมและการสุ่มตัวอย่างตามลำดับ และการสุ่มตัวอย่างตามลำดับ โดยมีเป้าหมายที่จะเก็บรวบรวมข้อมูลสามชุดไปพร้อม ๆ กัน การเก็บข้อมูลกิจกรรมของช้างแต่ละเชือกเป็นเวลา 16 ชั่วโมงแสดงให้เห็นว่าตัวอย่างศึกษาใช้เวลาส่วนใหญ่ไปกับการออกหาอาหาร, ดื่มน้ำ และเดินไปมาเหมือนช้างป่าสายพันธุ์เอเชียทั่วไป ไม่พบความแตกต่างอย่างมีนัยสำคัญระหว่างพฤติกรรมของช้างทั้งสี่เชือกที่ทำการศึกษา ข้อมูลการออกหาอาหารที่เก็บรวบรวมในระหว่างการสำรวจถูกนำมารวมกับข้อมูลที่เก็บรวบรวมโดยนักวิจัยโครงการตั้งแต่เดือ นมกราคม 2017 ซึ่งแสดงให้เห็นถึงความหลากหลายของสายพันธุ์พืชที่ช้างกิน (162 สายพันธุ์จาก 44 วงศ์) ตัวอย่างศึกษาถูกจัดให้อยู่ในประเภทสัตว์แทะเล็ม ไม่พบความแตกต่างอย่างมีนัยสำคัญของสายพันธุ์พืชที่ช้างทั้งสี่ตัวกิน ชุดข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับการรวมกลุ่มของช้างใช้ระยะห่างของตัวอย่างทดลองเพื่อศึกษาความสัมพันธ์ทางสังคมและความใกล้ชิดระหว่างช้างแต่ละเชือก ข้อมูลเกี่ยวกับการรวมกลุ่มทางสังคมที่เก็บรวบรวมมาทำการวิเคราะห์ยังมีปริมาณไม่เพียงพอ โดยรวมแล้วการศึกษาครั้งนี้เป็นการเก็บรวบรวมข้อมูลของช้างเลี้ยงสายพันธุ์เอเชียที่เดินหาอาหารได้อย่างอิสระในสภาพแวดล้อมกึ่งป่าเป็นครั้งแรก ยังมีสิ่งที่ต้องศึกษาเพิ่มเติมอีกมากเกี่ยวกับการจัดการประชากรช้างเลี้ยง ความแตกต่างของพฤติกรรมของตัวอย่างศึกษาเน้นให้เห็นถึงประเด็นนี้เมื่อเปรียบเทียบกับประชากรช้างเลี้ยงอื่น ๆ การวิจัยต่อยอดกับช้างสี่เชือกที่ทำการศึกษา จะช่วยรับรองความเที่ยงตรงของข้อมูลโดยมุ่งที่จะตีพิมพ์และสร้างแนวทางจัดการช้างเพื่อเผยแพร่ไปยังสถานที่เลี้ยงช้างในประเทศไทยและทั่วโลก
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The activity budget of Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) in Lahugala Kitulana National Park, Sri Lanka was studied. A total number of 60 elephants including 20 adult males, adult females and calves in each were observed during the present study. Recordings were made between 10:00 and 16:00 hr. The study identified 16 different behavioral patterns. Behaviours were observed in all types (male, female and calf) was significant difference between types for exploring, fly catching, feeding, flapping ear (One-way ANOVA). Behaviours were observed in male and female was significant difference between genders for bobbing, flicking leg, mudding, tail swiveling and walking (Two sample T-Test). But there was no significant difference between gender for bathing, drinking, dusting, and standing (Two sample T-Test). Behaviours such as kicking, running and playing were observed only in male, female and calf respectively. Amongst these behaviors, feeding was dominant followed by walking in male, female and calf elephants. The elephant spent much of the time for feeding (male 44.36%, female 46.68% and calf 47.51%) followed by walking and other behaviors. Male spent 38.47% of the time for (walking 16.74%, tail swiveling 8.04%, standing 7.44%, and exploring 6.25%). Female spent 36.14 % (walking 13.82%, drinking 10.45%, flapping ear 6.85%, and tail swiveling 5.02%). But other behaviours (including bobbing, bathing, dusting, flicking leg and mudding) were 8.43%. and 4.6% in male and female elephants respectively. Calves exhibited playing 45.13%, flapping ear 3.29%, fly catching 2.37% and exploring 1.67%.
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