ResearchPDF Available

Expedition report: Elephant encounters: Studying Asian elephants (in the hills of northern Thailand) to increase their welfare and conservation (October 2017)

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 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
Content may be subject to copyright.
EXPEDITION REPORT
Expedition dates:
23
31 October 2017
Report published:
August
2018
Elephant encounters:
northern Thailand to increase their
welfare and conserva
tion
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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:
23
31 October
2017
Report published:
August
2018
Authors:
T
alia Gale
Kin
dred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
Matthias Hammer (editor)
Biosphere Expeditions
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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
four
free
-
roaming captive Asian e
l
ephants. 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
.
S
ixteen 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.
The
re
was no
significant
difference
between
the behaviou
rs 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 show
ed
a high variety
of plant species
foraged on
(
162
species from 44 different f
amilies
)
. The study
subjects were
characteris
ed as a browse species.
There was no
significant
difference in the
plant species that the
four study subjects
foraged on
.
The el
ephant association data set used
the proximity of the study subjects to examine
s
ocial affiliation and closeness among the elephants
. Insufficient
social
-
association data
were
collected for analysis.
Overall, t
he data col
lected is the first of its type
on semi
-
wild free
-
roaming captive Asian
elephants
.
There is much room for improvem
ent in regards to management of captive elephant
populations
. T
he differences in behaviours exhibited by the studysubjects 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
.
บทคดยอ
µ¦ «¹¬ µ¦ ´Ê¸ÊÁȪµ¤¦ nª ¤¤º° ¦ ³ ®ª nµ
Biosphere Expeditions
¨ ³¤¼¨ ··®´ª Ħ ´¬roµ¹É
εµ¦  ´ÁÃ¥¦ ´oµÁ¨ ¸Ê¥ µ¥¡ ´»rÁ° Á¸¥¸É
มี
อิสระ
ในการหาอาหาร
ได้ทําการสังเกตกิจกรรม
,
นิสัยการออกหาอาหาร และพฤติกรรมทางสงคมของช้างด้วยวิธีการแบบทนที
,
แบบภาพรวม
และการสุ่มตัวอย่างตามลําด
¨ ³µ¦  »n¤´ª° ¥nµµ¤¨ ε´Ã¥ ¤¸Áµ®¤µ¥¸É³ ÁȦ ª¦ ª ¤o° ¤ ¼¨  µ¤»Å¡ ¦ o° ¤Ç´
การเก็บข้อมูลกิจกรรมของช้างแต่ละเชือกเป็นเวลา
16
´Éª äÂ Ä®oÁ®Èª nµ´ª° ¥nµ« ¹¬ µÄoÁª ¨ µ nª Ä®nÅ´µ¦ ° ° ®µ° µ®µ¦
,
ºÉ¤Îʵ¨ ³Á·Å¤µÁ®¤º° oµµ µ¥¡ ´»rÁ° Á¸¥´ÉªÅ
Ť n¡ ª µ¤Ânµ° ¥nµ¤ ¸´¥ ε´¦ ³ ®ª nµ¡ §·¦ ¦ ¤ ° oµ´Ê ¸ÉÁº° ¸Éεµ¦ «¹¬ µ
ข้
° ¤¼¨ µ¦ ° °®µ° µ®µ¦ ¸ÉÁȦ ª ¦ ª ¤Ä¦ ³ ®ª nµµ¦  ε¦ ª¼Îµ¤µ¦ ª ¤´o° ¤¼¨ ¸ÉÁȦ ª ¦ ª ¤Ã¥´ª ·´¥Ã¦ µ¦ ´ÊÂnÁº°
นมกราคม
2017
¹ÉÂ Ä®oÁ®È¹ª µ¤®¨ µ®¨ µ¥°  µ¥¡ ´»r¡ º¸Éoµ·
(
162
สายพันธุ์
จาก
44
วงศ์
)
ตัวอย่างศึกษาถูกจัดให้อยู่ในประเภทสัตว์แทะเล็ม ไม่พบค
ªµ¤Ânµ° ¥nµ¤¸´¥ ε´°  µ¥¡ ´»r¡ º¸Éoµ´Ê ¸É´ª·
»o° ¤¼¨ Á¸É¥ª´µ¦ ¦ ª¤¨ »n¤° oµÄo¦ ³ ¥³ ®nµ° ´ª °¥nµ¨ ° Á¡ ºÉ° «¹¬µª µ¤ ´¤¡ ´rµ ´¤ ¨ ³ª µ¤Ä¨ o·¦ ³ ®ªn
µoµÂn¨ ³ Áº° o° ¤ ¼¨ Á¸É¥ª´µ¦ ¦ ª¤¨ »n¤µ ´¤¸ÉÁȦ ª ¦ ª ¤¤µεµ¦ ª ·Á¦ µ³ ®r¥ ´
มีปริมาณไม่เพียงพอ
Ã¥¦ ª ¤Â¨ oª µ¦ «¹¬ µ¦ ´Ê¸ÊÁȵ¦ ÁȦ ª ¦ ª ¤o° ¤ ¼¨ ° oµÁ¨ ¸Ê¥ µ¥¡ ´»rÁ° Á¸¥¸ÉÁ·®µ°µ®µ¦ Åo° ¥nµ° · ¦ ³ Ä £ µ¡ ª¨ o
° ¤¹ÉµÁȦ ´Ê¦ ¥ ´¤ ¸ ·É¸Éo° «¹¬ µÁ¡ ·É¤ Á·¤° ¸¤µÁ¸É¥ª´µ¦ ´µ¦ ¦ ³ µ¦ oµÁ¨ ¸Ê¥
ความแตกต่างของพฤติกรรมของต
ª ° ¥nµ« ¹¬ µÁoÄ®oÁ®È¹¦ ³ ÁȸÊÁ¤ ºÉ° Á¦ ¸¥Á¸¥´¦ ³ µ¦ oµÁ¨ ¸Ê¥° ºÉÇ
µ¦ ª ·´¥n° ¥° ´oµ ¸ÉÁº° ¸Éεµ¦ «¹¬ µ
³ nª ¥¦ ´¦ ° ª µ¤Á¸É¥ ¦ ° o° ¤¼¨ Ã¥¤»n¸É³ ¸¡ ·¤¡ r¨ ³ ¦ oµÂª µ´µ¦ oµÁ¡ ºÉ° Á¥Â¡ ¦ nÅ¥ ´ µ¸ÉÁ¨ ¸Ê¥oµĦ ³ Á«Å¥ Â
¨ ³´ÉªÃ¨ 
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
3
C
ontents
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
7
1.6. Expedition leader
8
1.7. Expedition team
8
1.8. Par
tners
8
1.9. Acknowledgements
8
1.10. Further information & enquiries
9
1.11
.
Expedition budget
9
2.
Activity budgeting, foraging and social behaviour…
10
2.1. Introduction
1
0
2.2. Materials & methods
11
2.3. Results
15
2.4. Discussion and
conclusions
17
2.5. Literature cited
20
Appendix
I: Expedition diary and results
22
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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 t
o all corners of the
Earth. Our projects are not tours, photographic safaris or excursions, but genuine research
expeditions placing ordinary people with no research experience alongside scientists who
are at the forefront of conservation work. Our expedit
ions are open to all and there are no
special skills (biological or otherwise) required to join. Our expedition team members 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
23
to 31 October
2017 with the aim of conducting
close
-
encounter behavioural, diet
and
other studies on Asian elephants
.
Asian elephants are the largest living mammals in Asia and can be split into three
subspecies;
Elephas maximus maximus
(Sri Lanka),
Eleph
as 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 poach
ing and habitat
degradation, as well as 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 w
ild elephant population in Thailand is around 3,000 and there is a domestic
population of approximately 3,500
(
Sukumar 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 of logging in
1989, many elephants in Thailand w
ere out of work.
Elephant owners turned to the tourism
industry to continue to earn
a living from their elephants. However, o
ften elepha
nts in the
tourism industry are kept in inadequate conditions, worked to exhaustion and offered
little
or no veterinary care.
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary
(KSES)
returns
elephants from
the tourism industry back to the forest
to live in semi
-
wild condi
tions and studies them in
order to create more opportunities and strategies to re
-
wild more elephants in the future.
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 stud
ies on natural Asian elephant behaviour and
social structure.
KSES’s elephant herd presents
an ideal
opportunity
to 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, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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 Ki
ngdom of Thailand, is a country at the centre of the Indochinese
peninsula.
It is comprised of s
everal distinct geographic 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, bas
e camp and office locations is at
Google Maps
.
Most of Thailand, including the e
xpedition study site, has a tropical savannah climate. The
south and the eastern tip of the east have a tropical monsoon climate. Thailand is the only
country in
South E
ast Asia to have escaped colonial rule. Buddhist religion, the monarchy
and the militar
y have helped to shape
the country’s
society and politics.
The diversity of animals and plants in Thailand is
remarkable
. This is partly due to
Thailand’s geography:
a
land between two oceans on the Malaysian Peninsula, numerous
islands, plains in the cen
tral 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, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
6
It has been estimated 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 dif
ficult 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 b
arely a day goes by
before yet another scandal with an environmental tinge is revealed in the newspapers.
This concern for the environment though is comparatively recent, dating
back to
1973. In
that year, an army helicopter crashed, and as investigators p
icked over the wreckage they
discovered not just the bodies of the crew and passengers, but also the corpses of several
protected wild animals. It became clear that the human victims
-
prominent army officers
-
had been illegally hunting in the Thung Yai N
aresuan Wildlife Sanctuary. A public scandal
ensued and the environmental movement in Thailand was born.
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary, the expedition’s study site, was established in 2016
and comprises
of
highland and mountain tropical rainforest eco
systems. Slopes vary
between 25%
-
100% and the highest elevation is 1
,
100 m.
The
re are four elephants in the
study site
who roam in an area of
around 14 square kilometres.
The flora consists of
sphagnum bog, moist and dense evergreen cloud forest, dry eve
rgreen, pine, mixed
deciduous teak and dipterocarp forests.
The fauna includes
lar gibbons
(
Hylobates lar
)
,
red muntjac
(
Muntiacus muntjak
)
, Indian 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 a
nd corn and rice agriculture.
1.3. Dates
The project ran
from 23
31 October 2017.
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 th
e elephants
,
as well
forest
biodiversity
was still
thriving
after the
rainy season.
A second group was planned for 3
-
11 November 2017, but did not
run due to lack of citizen scientist volunteers signing up for the expedition.
1.4. Local conditions & supp
ort
Expedition base
The expedition was based in
a traditional Karen hill tribe village
in a rural area.
Sleeping
was in homestays in single, twin or double (for coup
les) accommodation and there
was
a
central dining and meeting area for the expedition tea
m in one of the local houses. 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 comm
unity
cooks
and special diets
were
ca
tered for.
1
https://www.nationsencyclopedia.com/Asia
-
and
-
Oceania/Thailand
-
FLORA
-
AND
-
FAUNA.html
2
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deforestation_in_Thailand
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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 Thailan
d (where the expedition
took
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 Nove
mber and is dominated by the 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
30
ºC,
night
time lows
of
about
10
ºC and
some
rainfall
in October, decreasing to very little
in November.
Field communications
There was a
patc
hy 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 sites such as
Facebook
and
Google+
.
Transport & vehicles
Team members made their own way to the Chiang Mai assembly point. From there
onwards and back to the assembly point a
ll transport and vehicles was 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
provided 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 ad
equate travel insurance covering emergency medical
evacuation and repatriation.
Safety and emergency procedures
were
in place
, but did not
have to be invoked as there were
no emergencies. However, three participants suffered
from vomiting and
diahorrea
and
left early, as did one other participant because they were
unhappy with the lack of luxury in the village. This resulted in a severe shortage of citizen
scientists for the project.
1.5.
Expedition
scientist
s
Talia Gale was born in Vancouver, Canada w
here she studied Zoology at the University of
British Columbia. Talia first came to Thailand in 2011 to study 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 tur
tles and general biodiversity.
In May 2016 Talia
began working with Kind
red Spirit Elephant Sanctuary 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, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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. H
aving already worked on conservation projects in Australia and Sri
Lanka, Kerri first came to Thailand in 2013 to help an elephant project with their
community and research efforts. In May 2016, Kerri and her local partner Sombat, founded
Kindred Spirit El
ephant
Sanctuary
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. Expedit
ion 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 both the creative
field
, but also 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 expediti
ons 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
all ages, nationalities and backgrounds. They were (in alphabetical order and with country
of residence):
Bidgette Bennett (USA),
Margot Coulter (Canada), Marion Fink
-
Schneider
(Germany), Denise Marie Grathwohl (Germany), Maria Ku
kharenko (Russia), Am
y
McCarthy (USA), Greg Milledge
(Canada)
.
1.8. Partners
On this expedition
Biosphere Expeditions’
main
partner
was
Kindred Spirit Elephant
Sanctuary & Foundation
(KSES). Their
mission it is to bring as many elephants as
possible ba
ck 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
elephant
behaviour.
1.9
. Acknowledgements
The expedition provided
labour and funding
and permitted data collection to occur
throughout
the day, all
owing for full data sets on Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary’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 with transportation and who cooked amazing meals.
Biosp
here 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, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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 part
icular including pictures, diary excerpts and a copy of this report can be found on the
Biosphere Expeditions website
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org
.
Enquires 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,
58
0
per person per
nine
-
day slot
towards
expeditio
n costs
. The contribution covered accommodation and 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 travel expenses to and from the
assembly point (e.g. i
nternational flights). Details on how this contribution was spent are
given below.
Income
£
Expedition contributions
18,352
Expenditure
Staff
includes local and Biosphere Expeditions staff salaries and travel expenses
4,689
Research
includes equip
ment and other research expenses
503
Transport
includes fuel, taxis and other local transport
398
Expedition base
includes
board & lodging and base hut upgrade
3,164
Administration
includes miscellaneous fees & sundries
197
Set
-
up
includes all pre
-
expe
dition set
-
up costs of inaugural expedition
6,761
Team recruitment
Thailand
as estimated % of annual PR costs for Biosphere Expeditions
6,733
Income
Expenditure
-
4,092
Total percentage spent directly on project
122
%
*
*This means that in 201
7, the expedition ran at a loss and was supported over and above the
income from the expedition contributions by Biosphere Expeditions.
© Biosphere Expeditions, a not
-
for
-
profit conservation organisation registered in Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
10
2.
Activity budgeting, foraging and social behaviour of
free
-
roaming semi
-
wild Asian elephants
Talia Gale
Kindred S
pirit 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
can be used to compare wild and captive
populati
ons. 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 discrepancies in the activity budgeting of their elephant
s
from wild populations (Elzanowski and Sergiel 2006, Varma et al. 2008, Mackey 2014
,
Samarasighe and Ahamed 2016).
This study investigates the activity budgeting of Kindred
Spirit Elephant Sanctuary’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
-
herbivore, eating approximately 200
kg of food each day, Asi
an 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 preferenc
es and
even differ in
being characteris
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 of
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 association d
ata
Over 6 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). Knowledge 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 201
1, de Silva et al. 2011
). Due
to the dense
-
forest mountainous habitat Thailand’s elephants inhabit, there are few first
-
hand observational studies on their social preferences. The work with Kindred Spirit
Elephant Sanctuary’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, Germany, Ireland, USA
Member of the United Nations E
nvironment 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 describ
ed in chapter 1.2. and a
topographic
map of the site is 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.
Study subjects
Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary’s
(KSES)
her
d of elephants consists of four individuals
-
three related individuals and on
e
unrelated male.
Too Meh is a 56 year old female, her
daughte
r is Mae Doom, who is in her 20
s. Too Meh’s grandso
n, Gen Thong is a five
year
old male orphaned elephant. The fourt
h elephant, Boon Rott, is
an
unrelated
12
year old
male.
Before joining
K
SES
, all four elephants worked in
tourist camps giving rides and
performing tricks. In May 2016,
K
SES
was founded and the fou
r elephants were walked to
the study site.
Elephant
owners are given a monthly compensation in order for them to
help provide for their families.
K
SES
does not purchase elephants
,
as
this
has
the
potential to lead to
illegal trafficking
and captu
re from the wild.
Currently
K
SES
only has
the funding to support these four elephants
,
but hope
s
to bring more elephants to join
them in the near future.
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 fores
t boundaries and do not enter
any fields or cross any main roads. During observation
s
the mahouts may interact with the
elephants to guide t
hem away from agricultural land.
F
or this purpose
direction
are
primarily
given with vocal commands.
On the training day,
participants
fed the elephants
bananas,
however,
during data collection days
participants
soley
observed the elephants.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
12
Figure 2.2b.
Pictures of the four elephant study subjects
.
Top left: Boon Rott. Top right: Gen Thong
. Bottom left:
Mae Doom. Bottom
right: Too Meh
.
Figure 2.2
c
.
Pictures of the agricultural areas and forests expedition
participants
trek
ked
through to reach the elephants
each day
.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
1
3
Figure 2.2
d
.
Tw
o
examples of the areas the elephants
roam
in.
L
eft: In a rocky river bed. Right: On a steep forested slope.
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
)
simu
ltaneousl
y
.
A
ctivity 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 exhibite
d by the individual elephant using the
behavioural ethogram (Table 2.2
a). Cloud cover, at intervals of 25%, and ambient
temperat
ure was also recorded at each five
minute interval.
Elephant foraging
Data were collected via all occurrence
focal
sampling
.
Due to low numbers of expedition
team members, for data analysis purposes, data collected by the expedition scientist
throughout the year
(from January 2017)
were
used as well.
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 elephant
(bark, fruit, leaf, root, twig
or stem). If the plant
was
not already in the field guide, a description of th
e plant and 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.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
14
Table 2.
2a.
Behavioural ethogram used
in the
field
.
Behaviour
Description
Bathing
Standin
g/laying in water or mud;
spraying
water or mud over body with trunk
Digging
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 thro
wing 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 sub
strate or other objects; d
oes not include
exploring forage
Foraging
Collecting solid food with the trunk and placing it in the mo
uth while standing or
walking; i
ncludes tearing down tree and branches and exploring forage
Mahout
i
nteraction
Any interactio
n with a mahout
Rolling
Rolling in soil or mud (but not as part of playing with another individual)
Scratching
Scratching or rubbing any body part with another part of the body, or with an
inanimate object
Interacting with other individuals
via touch of any body part
Aggression
-
Hitting/pushing as a result of an antagonistic encounter (but not as part
of play)
Socialis
ing
Pla
ying
-
Chasing another elephant or
mock
fighting with another elephant (but not as
a result of an antagonistic encounter or as
part of courtship)
Sex
Courting or being courted or
mounting another elephant or being mounted by another
elephant of either sex
Standing
Standing motionless
Walking
Walking (except while feeding)
Other
Any other behaviour
Cannot s
ee
Elephant behavi
our is not visible or not distinguishable
Elephant association
The elephant association data set
use
d
proximity to examine social affiliation among the
herd.
Data were c
ollected via scan sampling at five
minute intervals. At each interval the
identity
of an elephants’ nearest neighbour and next nearest neighbour, and whether or
not they
were
within touching distance of one another was recorded. Due to low numbers
of expedition team members, there
was
insufficient data for analysis.
Statistical a
nalysi
s
Activity budget
:
At each interval, if only one behaviour was observed by a given 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 ‘Ca
nnot See’ were
omitted from analysis. A one
-
way ANOVA was performed
across all behaviours for the
four
elephants. A regression was performed on each elephant
s bathing behaviour
and
temperature
.
Foraging:
A one
-
way ANOVA was performed across all species f
oraged on by the four
elephants.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
15
Training of expedition participants
In this study, data collec
tion was performed by volunteer citizen scientist
s
with no previous
knowledge of wildlife research and conservation, or elephant research and behaviour.
Train
ing included an introduction to differentiating elephant behaviours and individual
elephants. Expedition members had to 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 hardship
s of collecting field data (e.g.
walking on steep rocky
slope
s while recording elephant
behaviour) prior to recorded data collection pe
riods.
2.3.
Results
Activity b
udget
During the study, 192 incidences of behaviours were recorded for each elephant,
tota
l
ing
768
.
For
76 incidences, the animal was out of sight (recorded as ‘cannot see’)
.
Out of the
14 behaviours listed on the
behavio
ural ethogram (Table 2.2
a), the elephants displayed 13
behaviours. ‘Other’ was recorded only once, when the subject was urinating. Sex
was
never observed. If socialis
ing was recorded, it was never distinguished between
aggression and playing.
There were 17
incidences where two
behaviours were observed
to be performed at the same time, and this was only observed in the older ma
le and older
female. Of these, eight incidences involved socialising
-
foraging and four
inciden
ces
involved socialis
ing
-
bathing. There
was no significant difference in
the behaviours
observed by the four individual elephants (o
ne
-
way ANOVA F=0.016, p=0.997). Foraging
was the most dominant
behaviour, with an average of 59
% of the time spent eating. This
was followed by drinking and walkin
g, both at 8%, standing at 7%, exploring at 6% and
bathing at 5% (Figure 2.2a).
Figure 2.3
a
.
Pooled behaviours displayed by the elephants (n=4)
.
Reco
rded temperature ranged from 21ºC to 31º
C, with mean temperature for each hour
-
interval of
data collect
ion ranging from 22ºC to 30º
C. None of the
four
elephants showed a
correlation between temperature and bathing behaviour; Gen Thong (r=0.36, p>>0.05),
Boon Rott (r=0.01, p>>0.05), Mae Doom (r=0.31, p>>0.05), Too Meh (r=0.29, p>>0.05).
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
16
Foraging
Table 2.3
a
.
Most commonly consumed plant species
.
Species
Type
Parts consumed
% of
foraging encounters
Bamboo
(Vami)
Poaceae family
Bamboo
Whole plant
43.4%
Corn
Zea mays
Shrub
Stem/Fruit
12.3%
Akar malam
Sphatolobus sp.
Climber
Leaves, bark, s
tem
6.9%
Bamboo
(Vasu)
Poaceae family
Bamboo
Whole plant
2.7%
Golden gardenia
Gardenia sootepensis
Tree
Leaves
1.9%
China doll
Radermachera
sp.
Tree
Bark
1.7%
Balan/Taengwood
Shorea obtusa
Tree
Bark, s
tem
1.6%
Burmese varnish tree
Gluta usitata
Tree
Bark
1.5%
J
icama
Pachyrhizus
sp
.
Climber
Leaves, bark, s
tem
1.5%
Cashew family
Spondias pinnata
Tree
Leaves
1.4%
Unidentified
(Saykatoo)
Apocynaceae
family
Tree
Bark
1.1%
Longan
Dimocarpus longan
Tree
Leaves
1.0%
Dillenia
Dillenia
sp
.
Tree
Fruit
1.0%
Turkey
berry
Solanum torvum
Shrub
Stem, l
eaves
0.9%
Unidentified
(Gammay)
Poaceae family
Grass
Whole p
lant
0.9%
Kamala tree
Mallotus philippensis
Tree
Leaves, bark, s
tem
0.8%
Ring
-
cupped oak
Quercus kerrii
Tree
Twigs, leaves, r
oots
0.7%
Unidentified
(Koh)
Tree
Bark, t
wigs
0.7%
Unidentified
(Noh)
Poaceae family
Grass
Whole plant
0.6%
Mountain date palm
Phoenix loureiroi
Tree
Whole plant
0.6%
Bridal Couch Tree
Hymenodictyon
orixense
Tree
Twigs, bark, l
eaves
0.6%
Skunkvine
Paederia foetida
Climber
Leav
es, s
tem
0.5%
Unidentified
(Poca)
Rubiaceae family
Tree
Bark, t
wigs
0.5%
*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.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
17
In tota
l, 8184 minutes of foraging data
were
recorded, with 162
different species
consumed, 108
of which have been identified. The plants consumed make up 44 different
families; Adoxaceae (1 species), Anacardiaceae (5 species)
,
Annonaceae (1 species)
Apocynaceae
(3 species)
,
Araliaceae (1 species)
, Arecaceae (1 species),
Asparagaceae
(1 species)
,
Asteraceae (2 species)
,
Clusiaceae (1 species
),
Commelinaceae (1 species
),
Convolvulaceae (1 species
),
Costaceae (1 species
),
Cucurbitaceae (1 species
),
Dilleniaceae (1 s
pecies
),
Dioscoreaceae (1 species
),
Dipterocarpaceae (3 species
),
Equisetaceae (1 species
),
Euphorbiaceae (3 species
),
Fabaceae (23 species
),
Lamiaceae
(1 species
),
Lythraceae (3 species
),
Menispermaceae (2 species
),
Moraceae (5 species
),
Musaceae (1 speci
es
),
Myrsinaceae (2 species
),
Myrtaceae (1 species
),
Oleaceae (1
species
),
Orchidaceae (2 species
),
Pandanaceae (1 species
),
Passifloraceae (1 species
),
Phyllanthaceae (5 species
),
Piperaceae (1 species
),
Poacea
e
(10 species
),
Polygalaceae
(1 species
),
Pri
mulaceae (2 species
),
Rubiaceae (
5
species
),
Rutaceae (1 species
),
Sapindaceae (1 species
),
Smilacaceae (1 species
),
Solanaceae (3 species
),
Tiliaceae (2
species
),
Ulmaceae (1 species
),
Vitaceae (1 species
),
Zingiberaceae (2 species).
The elephants consum
ed 85% browse species (bamboos, trees, shrubs and herbs) with
grasses, including corn and rice crops, only making up 15% of their diet. Aside from two
species of bamboo, that make up 46.1% of the species consumed, the most commonly
consumed species were
Ze
a mays
(12.3%),
Sphatolobus
sp. (6.9%),
Gardenia
sootepensis
(1.9%)
,
Radermachera
sp.
(1.7%)
,
Shorea obtuse
(1.6%)
,
Gluta usitata
(1.5%)
,
Pachyrhizus
sp. (1.5%)
,
Spondias pinnata
(1.4%)
,
Unidentified
-
local name
Saykatoo
(
Apocynaceae
family)
(1.1%)
,
Dimocar
pus longan
(1.0%)
and
Dillenia
sp. (1.0%)
(Table 2.3
a).
There was no significant difference in
the species foraged on by the four individual
elephants (o
ne
-
way ANOVA F=0.
175
, p=0.9
13
).
2.4. Discussion and conclusions
Activity budgets
Many studies concl
ude that wild Asian elephants spend a majority of their time feeding
(Bas
karan et al. 2010, Ahamed 2015). This is corroborated by the results presented here.
Looking at captive 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
behavio
u
r
(bouts of rhythmically repeated movements
including swaying and head
-
bobbing).
A
study examining captive elephants in India,
comparing fo
rest camp elephants, temple elephants and zoo
elephants, when pooled
together,
found
that
the elephants fed only 29%
of the time (Varma et al. 2008).
Mackey
(2014) found elephants at San Diego Zoo spent the majority of t
heir time feeding and
standing.
Sama
rasighe and Ahamed (2016)
,
looking at captive orphaned elephants in Sri
Lanka
,
found their behaviours were dominated by feeding.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
18
Diet analysis
The present study recorded over 107 species foraged on
by the four study elephants
. In
similar studies, Jin e
t al. (2006) collected 106 samples from elephants in China, Joshi and
Singh (2008) found elephants in Rajaji National Park, India, to eat 50 species of plants and
Koirala et al. (2016)
,
looking at elephants in Nepal
, collected 57 plant species.
To our
know
ledge there are no
published studies on elephant foraging in Thailand
.
Geographically
,
the closest publications to our study site are in Myanmar where
Himmelsbach et al. (2006)
,
looking at working elephants in their natural habitat
, found that
they
consu
med over 124 species
and Campos
-
Arceiz et al. (2008),
also looking at working
timber elephants
,
recorded
diversity of pl
ant species we have collected.
Similarly to our study, Campos
-
Arceiz et
al.
(2008) relied on traditio
nal local knowledge of mahouts to identify plant species. H
owever
,
our study also
employed
the methods of Himmelsbach et al. (2006), using direct
observation of the elephants as opposed to surveying locals or dung analysis. Thi
s type of
observation provides more detailed information regarding the specific plant species eaten,
as opposed to just investigation on the portion of grass and browse.
Our analysis of plant species foraged
show
exploitation of a
large
selection of speci
es
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 Chowdhury 2014).
By contrast, g
rass dominated the diet of eleph
ants 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
differenc
es 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
include 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, however,
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
gra
ss 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
natural elephant behaviours while living in semi
-
wild condit
ions. The data collected
showed that Kindred Spirit Elephant Sanctuary’s elephants’ behaviours more closely
mimic those of wild Asian elephants, than of elephants in captivity.
The expedition
also
highlighted some areas for improvement in regards to mana
gement 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 beahviour.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
19
Ther
e is a need to improve captive conditions
so that the behaviour of
elephant
s 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 elephants compared to other capt
ive
elephant studies
.
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. Hav
ing a good
knowledge of diet composition and foraging ecology of Thailand’s elephants may help
conservationists and wildlife managers in developing
effective
strategies to improve wildlife
management.
Outlook
As this was the inaugural Biosphere Expedit
ion
s project
in conjunction with Kindred Spirit
Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand, further research is needed to ensure precision of
collected data. As this was the first study investigating activity budgeting of semi
-
wild
Asian elephants, the behavioural eth
ogram will be adjusted for the next expedition to
incorporate knowledge acquired this year (ie. adding social
-
bathing and social
-
foraging as
individual behaviours). As the elephants move to different areas of the forest throughout
the study site, the fores
t composition differs, opening up new foraging opportunities,
potentially adding species to the list of foraged plants. With future expeditions, data on the
social behaviour of the elephants will be collected and analysed. Furthermore, in years to
come, as
the number of elephants under Kindred Spirit’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 detailed
description of the diets of elephants free
-
roaming in the forests of
Northern
Thailand
A description of the behavioural patterns of four captive elephants free
-
roaming in
the forest
Actions for next expedition
and future research work
:
Complete elephant
association data set
Complete elephant activity budget data set with altered behavioural ethogram
(including social bathing, social foraging
,
etc.)
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
If
a
bee
hive fencing project is set up
(funding is being sought for this)
, create a new
data set using camera trapping to monitor the
effectivness
of the fences
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
20
2.5.
Literature cited
Ahamed AMR. 2015. Activity Time Budget of 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.
Campos
-
Arceiz A,
Lin TZ, Htun W, Takatsuki S, Leimgruber P. 2008. Working with
mahouts to explore the diet of work elephants in Myanmar (Burma). Ecol Res 23:
1057
1064.
Choudhury
A, Lahiri Choudhury DK, Desai A, Duckworth JW, Easa PS, Johnsingh AJT,
Fernando P, Hedges S,
Gunawardena M, Kurt F, Karanth U, Lister A, Menon V, Riddle H
,
Rübel
A,
Wikraman
ayake E. (IUCN SSC Asian Elepha
nt 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.
de Silva S, Wittemyer G.
201
1. A co
mparison 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.
English M, Gillespie G, Ancrenaz M, Ismail S, Goossens B, Nathan S, LinklaterW. 2014.
Plant selection and avoidance by the Bornean elephant (
Elephas maximus borneensis
) in
tropical forest: does plant recovery rate after herbivory influence food
choices?
JTE 30:
371
-
379.
Himmelsbach W, Gonzalez
-
Tagle MA, Fuldner K, Hoefle HH, Htun W. 2006.
Food plant of
captive elephants in the Okkan Reserved Forest, Myanmar (Burma), Southeast Asia.
Ecotrop 12:
15
-
26.
Jin C, Xiaobao D, Ling Z, Zhilin D. 2006. Di
et composition and foraging ecology of Asian
elephants in Shangyong, Xishuangbanna, China. Acta Ecol Sin 26(2):
309
316.
Joshi R, Singh R. 2008. Feeding behaviour of wild Asian elephants (
Elephas maximus
) in
the Rajaji national park. J Am Sci 4:
34
48.
K
oirala RK, Raubenhaimer D, Aryal A, Pathak ML, Ji W. 2016. Feeding preferences of the
Asian elephant (
Elephas maximus
) in Nepal. BMC Ecol 16:
54.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
21
Lee PC, Moss CJ. 1999. The social context for learning and behavioural development
among wild African elephan
ts. 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 Animal Management Changes on the Activity Budgets and
Walking Rates
of Zoo Elephants [dissertation]. Hattiesburg (MS): University of Southern
Mississippi.
Most Elephants in Thailand Registered for DNA Checks. (2017 Feb 10) Retrieved from:
http://www.na
tionmultimedia.com/news/national/30306073
.
Roy M, Chowdhury S. 2014. Foraging Ecology of the Asian Elephant in NorthernWest
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 Env Pharmacol Life
Sci 5(7):
47
-
50.
Schmidt
-
Burbach J. 2011. Wildlife on a tight rope; a survey of the use o
f wild animals in
entertainment in Thailand. London (UK): World Animal Protection.
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 el
ephants
in captivity and mahout
-
elephant interaction in Karnataka. Bangalore (India): Compassion
Unlimited Plus Action and Asian Nature Conservation Foundation. Technical Report 3c.
©
Biosphere Expeditions,
an international not
-
for
-
profit
conservation
organisat
ion registered in Australia
,
England, France, Germany,
Ireland,
USA
Officially accredited member of the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum
Officially accredited member of the International Union
for
the
Conservation
of Nature
22
Appendix
I
:
Expedition diary and reports
A multimedia expedition diary is available on
https://blog.biosphere
-
expeditions.or
g/category/expedition
-
blogs/thailand
-
2017/
.
All expedition reports, including this and previous expedition reports,
are available on
www.biosphere
-
expeditions.org/reports
.
... 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 Hammer 2018). The behaviour of KSES's elephants appears to more closely match those of wild elephants, with many studies concluding that wild Asian elephants spend a majority of their time feeding (Baskaran et al. 2010, Ahamed 2015. ...
... 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, presumably 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. ...
Research
Full-text available
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
Article
Full-text available
The activity budgeting of Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) at Elephant Orphanage, Sri Lanka was studied. A total number of 6 elephants including 2 adult males, adult females and calvesin each were observed during the present study. Recordings were made between 10:00 and 16:00 hr. The elephants exhibited variation in activity depending on their sex. The study identified 09 different behaviors for the animals observed during the observation. Behaviours were observed in all types (male, female and calf)was significant difference between types for Feeding, Rubbing, Tail Swivieling, Greetings, Dancing and Stealing others food. No behaviours were observed in male and female was significant difference between genders for Feeding, Dust bathing, Rubbing, Trumpetting, Tail Swiveling, Ear shaking, Dancing and Hind leg scratching (Two sample T-Test). Amongst these behaviors, feeding was dominant followed by walking in male, female and calves elephants. In male, feeding dominated (46.78% of the time) followed by flapping ear 20.74%, tail swiveling 18.06%, dancing 10.20% and other behaviours. Female shown feeding 50.59%, flapping ear 23.45%, tail swiveling 15.20%, Rubbing 2.10% and other behaviours. Calves showed feeding (43.65%), flapping ear 21.10%, tail swiveling 16.36%, dancing 3.84% and other behaviours.
Article
Full-text available
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%.
Article
Full-text available
Abstract. Foraging by Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) was studied using the lead animal technique at Buxa Tiger Reserve, Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary and Gorumara National Park in West Bengal, India. Feeding trials were done in three broad habitat types—Dense-mixed, Open-mixed and Grassland. In total, 3150 bite counts and 67 consumed plant species consisting of 17 grasses, 6 herbs, 13 shrubs, 14 climbers and 17 trees, were recorded. Browse species bites formed 56% of the total sample and 89 %, 57%, and 24 % of the samples in dense-mixed, open-mixed and grassland, respectively. Crude protein in common wild grasses such as Saccharum spontaneum and S. arundinaceum was lower than cultivated crops like Eleucine corocana.
Article
Full-text available
The plant vigour hypothesis proposes that herbivores should favour feeding on more vigorously growing plants or plant modules. Similarly, we would expect herbivores to favour plants that regrow vigorously after herbivory. Larger animals, like elephants, may also select plant species relative to their availability and prefer species with larger growth forms in order to meet their intake requirements. The food preferences of the Bornean elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis) in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, Sabah, Malaysia, were investigated along 12 transects in areas where elephants were recently sighted feeding. One hundred and eighty-two plants were eaten and 185 plants were measured for species availability along transects. Species vigour was determined by the monthly regrowth in new shoot length after elephant feeding and the number of new shoots produced on each plant. Measurements were carried out on each plant for 9 months, or until the new shoot was eaten. Plant sizes were determined from their basal diameter. The Bornean elephant did not prefer more vigorous species or species with larger growth forms. New shoots did not grow longer on preferred than avoided species. Additionally, unlike other elephants that live in a forest environment, the Bornean elephant preferred species from the Poaceae (specifically Phragmites karka and Dinochloa scabrida) over other plant types including gingers, palms, lianas and woody trees.
Article
Full-text available
Asian and African elephant species have diverged by ca. 6 million years, but as large, generalist herbivores they occupy similar niches in their respective environments. Although the multilevel, hierarchical nature of African savannah elephant societies is well established, it has been unclear whether Asian elephants behave similarly. Here we quantitatively compare the structure of both species' societies using association data collected using the same protocol over similar time periods. Sociality in both species demonstrates well-defined structure, but in contrast to the African elephants of Samburu the Uda Walawe Asian elephants are found in smaller groups, do not maintain coherent core groups, demonstrate markedly less social connectivity at the population level, and are socially less influenced by seasonal differences in ecological conditions. The Uda Walawe Asian elephants, however, do maintain a complex, well-networked society consisting of ≥2 differentiated types of associates we term ephemeral and long-term affiliates. These findings imply we must broaden our recognition of multilevel social organization to encompass societies that fall along a gradient of nestedness, and not merely those that exhibit hierarchical nesting. This in turn suggests that multilevel structures may be more diverse and widespread than generally thought, and that phylogenetic comparisons within species-rich clades, such as that of primates, using the methods presented can provide fresh insights into their socioecological basis.
Article
The composition of the diet and the foraging ecology of the Asian elephant in its natural habitat were studied from 1998 to 2000 in the Shangyong National Natural Reserve located at Xishuangbanna, China, using field observation and dung analysis. A total of 106 plant species were recorded as being eaten by Asian elephants, 83 of which were identified in the elephants' dung. The plant families that contributed to a major proportion of the elephants' diet in the study area were: Gramineae (8 spp., 10.0%), Moraceae (7 spp., 9.9%), Papilionaceae (4 spp., 8.4%), Araliaceae (3 spp., 6.6%), Vitaceae (3 spp., 5.7%), Apocynaceae (3 spp., 4.6%), Musaceae (1 spp., 4.2%), Zingiberaceae (3 spp., 3.7%), Myrsinaceae (3 spp., 3.6%), Rosaceae (3 spp., 3.6%), Euphorbiaceae (5 spp., 3.3%), Ulmaceae (2 spp., 3.0%) and Mimosaceae (4 spp., 2.9%). The most important plants in the elephants' diet were Ficus spp. (Moraceae, 9.0%), Dendrocalamus spp. (Gramineae, 4.5%), Musa acuminata (Musaceae, 4.2%), Microstegium ciliatum (Gramineae, 3.5%) and Amalocalyx yunnanensis (Apocynaceae, 3.1%). Asian elephants consumed a variety of plants in terms of life forms, including trees, vines, shrubs and herbs. Early successional plant species constitute a higher proportion of the diet than late successional plants (42 spp. taking 59%vs. 32 spp. taking 37%). Browsing species accounted for a larger proportion of the diet compared to grazing species (77 spp. taking 91%vs. 6 spp. taking 9%). The number of plant taxa (species, genus, family) in elephants' diet each month negatively correlated with monthly rainfall and mean temperature. The study may help to develop proper strategies for wildlife management especially with regard to the human-elephant conflict, which is now a serious issue in the conservation of Asian elephants in this area.
Article
The breeding behaviour of Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) in the Rajaji National Park was studied during 2000-2007. Despite, the status, movement pattern, habitat utilization, feeding behaviour and man-elephant conflict, extremely rare research work has been carried out on its reproductive behaviour in the wild. During the recent past most of the wildlife corridors in the Rajaji National Park area through which elephant performs their long-term migration between Rajaji to Corbett National Park has been shrinked, which has affected the breeding performances along with genetic exchange between the elephants of different protected areas. Direct observation method was followed for conducting this study and study findings have wider implications for developing predictive models of Asian elephant conservation. Mixing of the adult bulls, selection of prospective partner to mate, smelling of genital organ and discharge of urine were few of the major features of mating behaviour in elephants. Generally 15 - 20 days were required for completion of mating process but if the environmental conditions were unfavourable it was completed by a month. The duration of coitus was observed to be 3-4 minutes, which largely depends upon presence of group members and cooperation of the prospective cow. Breeding season in Rajaji National Park was noted to be extending maximum from May to November, which through embraces the hot, rainy and beginning of cold seasons but largely the warm period. Musth phenomenon in adult male elephants was mostly observed during February to July, which was dominated by dry period. High level of parental care was also observed in elephants and serious bullfights were the attempts of mating needs. Presently large scale developmental and anthropogenic activities are responsible for habitat deterioration in this area and hence, continued protection of the Asian elephant is of paramount importance for the global conservation of this endangered species (Researcher. 2009;1(5):76-84). (ISSN: 1553-9865). .