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Foraging Ecology of Semi-Free-Roaming Asian Elephants in Northern Thailand

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We observed the foraging behaviour of five semi-free-roaming elephants in Thailand from December 2016 to October 2019 using all occurrence focal sampling. The elephants consumed 165 species of plants representing 56 families. Dendrocalamus sp. (bamboo), accounted for 40.3% of the elephants’ foraging time. The elephants spent significantly more time browsing than grazing. A significant increase in grazing during the cold season may be attributed to increased access to cultivated fields. Despite this increase, bamboo remained the principle component of the elephants’ diet across seasons. This study provides baseline information regarding foraging by semi-free ranging elephants in a previously undescribed area.
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4
Introduction
Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are one of the
few extant megaherbivores. They spend between
12–18 hours per day feeding and consume
1.5–2.5% of their body weight in dry fodder
daily (Sukumar 2003). Elephant diet is variable
depending on habitat, geographic region, season,
and availability (Sukumar 2003). They are known
to switch between browse and graze depending
on environmental conditions, especially in areas
with strong seasonality (Sukumar 2006). Their
dietary composition is also highly variable
on a local scale within a geographic region
(Himmelsbach et al. 2006). Although Asian
elephants are generalized herbivores, their food
selection is inuenced by factors such as nutrient
requirements and plant palatability, texture and
phenophase (Sivaganesan & Johnsingh 1995;
Sukumar 2003). Studies in India, China, Nepal,
Sri Lanka and Myanmar have demonstrated that
elephants consume a diverse array of fodder
(Sukumar 1990; Chen et al. 2006; Himmelsbach
et al. 2006; Samansiri & Weerakoon 2007; Roy
& Chowdhury 2014; Koirala et al. 2016), and
studies in Thailand have detailed the limited
diet of captive elephants (Bansiddhi et al. 2018).
However no comparable work has been done on
free-foraging elephants in Thailand. Considering
the notable population of elephants in Thailand
and the geo-spatial inuences on elephant diet,
it is important to address this knowledge decit.
There are approximately 3100–3600 wild ele-
phants in Thailand, and a captive population
of over 3700 (AsERSM 2017). Of the captive
population, 75% reside in ‘Elephant Camps’
established for tourism in the northern provinces
(Kontogeorgopoulos 2009). These camp ele-
phants are usually fed an insufcient variety of
food and their staple fodder is of unbalanced
nutritional composition, including supplements
such as fruit (Kontogeorgopoulos 2009). Un-
natural conditions of camps make them inad-
equate environments to study the foraging habits
of Asian elephants, while low population density
and poor visibility in forests makes studying
foraging by wild elephants challenging in some
areas (Campos-Arceiz et al. 2008). Knowledge
of feeding behaviour and ecology is crucial to
managing wild elephants, mitigating human-
elephant conict, and improving husbandry of
captive elephants (Chen et al. 2006; Sukumar
2006; Campos-Arceiz et al. 2008; Koirala et al.
2016).
The objectives of this study were to document
the main fodder species of semi-free-roaming
© 2020 The Authors - Open Access
Peer-Reviewed Research Article Gajah 52 (2020) 4-14
Foraging Ecology of Semi-Free-Roaming Asian Elephants in Northern Thailand
Carleen Schwarz,1* Alexandra Johncola1 and Matthias Hammer2
1Kindred Spirit Elephant Foundation and Sanctuary, Mae Suek, Mae Chaem District, Chiang Mai,
Thailand
2Biosphere Expeditions, Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland
*Corresponding author’s e-mail: carlyschwarz94@gmail.com
Abstract. We observed the foraging behaviour of ve semi-free-roaming elephants in
Thailand from December 2016 to October 2019 using all occurrence focal sampling.
The elephants consumed 165 species of plants representing 56 families. Dendrocalamus
sp. (bamboo), accounted for 40.3% of the elephants’ foraging time. The elephants spent
signicantly more time browsing than grazing. A signicant increase in grazing during
the cold season may be attributed to increased access to cultivated elds. Despite this
increase, bamboo remained the principle component of the elephants’ diet across seasons.
This study provides baseline information regarding foraging by semi-free ranging
elephants in a previously undescribed area.
5
elephants in a mixed-use landscape in northern
Thailand; and to identify seasonal changes in
consumption. This study was part of ongoing re-
search into Asian elephant behaviour and ecology
in mountainous tropical rainforest ecosystems.
Materials and methods
Study site
Northern Thailand is characterized by mountain
ranges and dense forests. Located 180 km
southwest of Chiang Mai in the Mae Chaem
district, Kindred Spirit Elephant Foundation and
Sanctuary (KSES) is situated in a small Karen
hill-tribe village called Ban Naklang with a
population of about 500 people. The village
was adjacent to approximately 4000 ha of land,
comprised of mixed use agricultural elds
(predominately rice and corn), old growth forests
and various stages of successional forests (Fig.
1). The elevation ranges from 700–1100 m.
This mountain tropical ecosystem consists of
a variety of habitats including sphagnum bog,
moist and dense evergreen cloud-forest, dry
evergreen, pine, mixed deciduous, teak and
dipterocarp forests (Gale & Hammer 2018). The
area is distinctly seasonal and can be divided into
a cold dry season (November – February), a hot
dry season (March June), and a wet season (July
October) under the inuence of the southwest
monsoon.
KSES was established in May 2016 and is
currently home to ve elephants, females Too
Meh (age 58) and Mae Doom (age 25), and males
Gen Thong (age 7), Boon Rott (age 14) and Dodo
(age 14). Too Meh, Mae Doom, Gen Thong, and
Boon Rott have resided at KSES since it was
established, and Dodo joined in September 2018.
Before coming to KSES, these elephants were
working in tourist camps in Northern Thailand,
performing tricks, giving rides and serving as
photo props. At KSES they are not worked but
instead are free-roaming throughout the day.
The elephants had access to approximately 4000
ha around Ban Naklang. They have free choice
to forage, associate, and behave as they please
with restrictions regarding use of agricultural
elds, roads, and neighboring villages. The
elephants all have mahouts (elephant caretakers)
that ensure they stay away from restricted areas
and in the forests with enough natural fodder.
Mahouts followed the free roaming elephants
for 12 hours a day on average, enforced land
restrictions and prevented crop raiding via verbal
commands. Land restrictions were relaxed after
harvesting, allowing the elephants limited access
to agricultural elds during the cold season. The
elephants chose the plant species they consumed
and the amount of time they spent foraging on
the selected plants. The only exception to this
was during the hot dry season when food was
not abundant in the forests, when the mahouts
provided grass to supplement the elephants’
diets as needed. Throughout the day and during
observational periods the elephants were not
restricted to a location, allowing for a unique
opportunity to study the foraging behaviour of
semi-free-roaming elephants. The elephants
were conned in place at night using long chains
Figure 1. Map of northern Thailand and study area.
6
in the forest to ensure their and the community’s
safety. Where they spent the night changed daily
depending on where they roamed during the day.
Data collection
Data was collected from December 2016 through
October 2019 on four elephants (Too Meh,
Mae Doom, Gen Thong, and Boon Rott) with
the addition of one elephant in October 2018
(Dodo). Observation periods lasted 1.5 hours
and commenced between 9:00 and 10:00 am
depending on the location of the elephants.
Data was collected via all-occurrence focal
sampling, following Roy & Chowdhury (2014).
In order to determine the amount of time the
elephants’ spent foraging on plant species, the
observer focused on one elephant at a time to
record plant species consumed (identied by
the mahout with the name in local language),
the length of time the elephant fed on said plant
species, functional group, and part(s) of the plant
consumed. The functional groups identied
were trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, and climbers.
Parts of the plants consumed were classied
as bark, fruit, leaf, root, twig, stem or whole
(plant eaten in entirety). Samples of all novel
species the elephants consumed were collected,
photographed, the common name recorded if
known, and scientically identied by a botanist
in Chiang Mai, thus establishing a database of
elephant food plants.
Data analysis
Trees, shrubs, herbs, climbers, and bamboo
were classied as browse and grasses as graze.
Despite being botanically classied as a grass,
bamboo was categorized as browse because of
its growth characteristics and following other
feeding studies of elephants (i.e. Sukumar 1990;
Himmelsbach et al. 2006; Chen et al. 2006).
A two-tailed Z-test with a signicance level of p
= 0.05 was used to test for seasonal differences
in time spent grazing and browsing. Differences
in time spent foraging on different functional
groups between the three seasons, were tested
for signicance by One Way ANOVA. Tukey’s
Honestly Signicant Difference (HSD) post-
hoc test was used to compare differences in the
type of plants consumed between seasons. One
elephant, Dodo, was excluded from the seasonal
analysis because less than a year of data was
collected on him.
Results
Dietary richness
The elephants were observed foraging for a total
of 17,912 min. Of which, 4,546 minutes were in
the cold season, 5,337 minutes in the hot season
and 8,029 minutes in the wet season. A total of
165 identied plant species from 56 families
were consumed. Of these, 155 were directly
observed and 10 were observed by mahouts.
Over 58% of the species were from 11 families,
consisting of Fabaceae (30 species), Poaceae (19),
Moraceae (10), Rubiaceae (6), Anacardiaceae
(6), Fagaceae (5), Lythraceae (4), Apocynaceae
(4), Phyllanthaceae (4), Euphorbiaceae (4), and
Vitaceae (4) (See Appendix for species). Another
24 samples were not identied and consisted of
one climber, two grasses, one shrub, 19 trees, and
one herb.
Of the 165 identied species, trees accounted for
49.1% of the species consumed, climbers 21.2%,
grasses 12.1%, shrubs 10.3%, herbs 6.1% and
bamboo 1.2%. Although bamboo represented
1.2% of the species, the elephants spent 44.0%
of their time consuming bamboo. The remaining
time was spent feeding on trees (29.1%), grasses
(12.4%), climbers (12.4%), shrubs (1.4%) and
herbs (0.8%). The elephants spent signicantly
more time browsing than grazing (browse 87.6%,
graze 12.4%, z = 142.257, Fig. 2).
Figure 2. Time elephants spent browsing and
grazing during the year and seasonally.
7
In assessing feeding time by species,
Dendrocalamus sp. (bamboo), accounted for
40.3%, Zea mays (grass) 7.9%, Sphatolobus sp.
1 (climber) 6.2%, Bambusa sp. (bamboo) 3.7%,
Radermachera sp. 1 (tree) 3.6%, and Pachyrhizus
sp. 1 (climber) 2.3%. Other species accounted for
less than 2.0% each (see Appendix).
Four crop species were consumed, Zea mays
(corn), Pennisetum purpureum (Napier grass),
Mussa sp. (banana) and Oryza sativa (rice).
Crop consumption was from leftover harvest
and diet supplementation and not crop raiding.
The elephants had limited access to corn and rice
elds post-harvest, aligning with the cold season.
All four crops were used for diet supplementation
when needed.
The parts of plants consumed varied by functional
groups. For trees, leaves were the most commonly
consumed (80.0% of species), followed by stems
(49.0%), bark (47.0%), and twigs (41.0%). To a
lesser extent the roots (16.0%), shoots (7.0%),
and fruits (5.0%) were eaten, and some trees were
eaten whole (12.0%). Mainly leaves (80.0%) and
stems (74.0%) of climbers were consumed. Some
climbers were consumed whole (26.0%), or the
twigs (11.0%), bark (9.0%), and one fruit (3.0%).
Leaves were also the most consumed portions of
shrubs (53.0%), while many were also consumed
whole (35.0%). Additionally, the twigs and stems
were consumed (24.0% each), as well as the
roots (18.0%), and one fruit (6.0%). Bamboo was
consumed whole (100.0%), although the leaves,
twigs, stems, and shoots were also selected for
(100.0% each). Herbs were most commonly
consumed whole (70.0%), but leaves (50.0%)
and stems (30.0%) were also consumed. Grasses
were also dominantly consumed whole (100.0%),
while the fruit, leaves, and stems of one species
(Zea mays) were also selected for.
When feeding on trees, in 31.0% of species only
one part was consumed, in 22.0% two parts, in
11.0% three, and in 36.0% four or more parts.
When only one plant part was consumed, the
elephants most commonly chose the leaves
(68.0% of species), and to a lesser extent bark
(three species), roots (two), and stems, twigs,
or fruit (one each). When feeding on climbers,
in 20.0% of species only one plant part was
consumed, in 46.0% two parts, in 20.0% three,
and 14.0% four or more parts. From the shrubs,
47.0% were fed on selectively for one part,
12.0% for two parts, 12.0% for three, and 29.0%
for four or more parts.
Seasonal comparison
The elephants spent signicantly more time
consuming bamboo in the wet season than in the
cold season (F = 4.790, p = 0.038). Differences
in bamboo consumption between wet and hot
seasons and between cold and hot seasons were
not signicant (F = 1.06, p = 0.342, F = 3.120,
p = 0.128, respectively). The elephants spent
signicantly more time consuming grasses in
the cold season than in hot and wet seasons (F =
20.067, p = 4.818x10-4). There were no signicant
differences in time spent consuming climbers (F
= 0.134, p = 0.871), herbs (F = 0.088, p = 0.916),
shrubs (F = 3.190, p = 0.897), or trees (F = 0.789,
p = 0.483) between the cold, hot, and wet seasons
(Fig. 3).
The elephants spent signicantly more time
feeding on browse than graze species year-
round. The elephants spent the largest percentage
of time consuming browse species during the
wet season at 94.0% (z = 111.159), compared
to 90.0% browse in hot season (z = 83.189) and
73.0% in cold season (z = 44.548, Fig. 2).
Discussion
The total of 165 plant species from 56 families
consumed by the elephants in our study exceeds
that recorded for Asian elephants in other
Figure 3. Foraging times on different functional
groups of plants by elephants by season.
8
geographic areas. For example 57 species from
25 families in Nepal (Koirala et al. 2016), 67
species from 28 families in West Bengal, India
(Roy & Chowdhury 2014), 106 species from 27
families in China (Chen et al. 2006), 112 species
in India (Sukumar 1990), 116 species from 35
families in Sri Lanka (Samansiri & Weerakoon
2007), and 124 species from 27 families in
Myanmar (Himmelsbach et al. 2006).
Of the 165 plant species consumed, six species
accounted for 64% of the elephants’ foraging
time. This selective feeding behaviour with a
few species comprising the main portion of their
diet is consistent with studies done in India and
Myanmar (Sukumar 1990; Himmelsbach et al.
2006). Elephants may use easily consumable
fodder such as bamboo to full their high intake
requirements of up to 10% of bodyweight in
fresh biomass, while a diverse diet is required to
ensure elephants still obtain essential nutrients
found in time-intensive species, such as trees
(Sukumar 1989; Karunaratne & Ranawana
1999). For example, bark contains important
minerals including calcium (Sukumar 2006).
Our elephants selectively fed on the bark of
47% of observed tree species (see Appendix).
Thus, despite access to an abundance of easily
consumable fodder, the elephants spent time and
energy consuming selected plant parts.
In southern India, Sukumar (1990) found
85% of the elephants diet consisted of species
from the families Leguminosae (Fabaceae),
Arecaceae, Cyperaceae and Poaceae (formerly
Gramineae). With the exception of Cyperaceae,
all these families were represented in the diet
of elephants in our study. The elephants in this
study spent about 56% of their time consuming
plants of the family Poaceae. However as grasses
encompassed only about 12% of their foraging
time, the majority of this was due to consumption
of bamboo. Notably, almost 44% of their time
was spent consuming two species of bamboo
(Fig. 4). Our ndings are similar to that of a
study in Myanmar, where bamboo comprised
57% and 85% of elephants’ diet at two sites
(Himmelsbach et al. 2006). In contrast, bamboo
formed a much smaller portion of the diet, and
was only consumed by elephants at three of ve
study sites in southern India (Sukumar 1990). A
study in China found elephants consumed mostly
browse species, however bamboo accounted
for only about 4.5% of their diet (Chen et al.
2006). Bamboo comprising a variable proportion
of elephants’ diet in different locations may
be due to its natural absence or rarity in some
geographic areas. Availability may also differ
due to overfeeding, decreased regeneration and
extraction by people (Joshi & Singh 2008).
When analyzing seasonal patterns in foraging,
we found that more time was spent consuming
bamboo in the wet season than the cold season.
In the cold season, there is an increase in grass
consumption time. This may be due to seasonal
differences in agricultural eld access, including
rice (Oryza sativa) and corn (Zea mays), that are
restricted during hot and wet seasons while the
elds are in use. Grass is considered an important
component of elephants’ diet because it has a
high protein content, especially while young, and
few toxic secondary compounds (McKay 1973;
Sukumar 1989). We found that the proportion
of grass in the elephants’ diet decreased as the
seasons shifted from cold to hot, then wet. This is
likely due to the increased access to elds during
the cold season, the lack of available grasses
in the hot season, followed by restricted access
to the elds in the wet season. A study in Sri
Figure 4. Elephant consuming bamboo.
9
Lanka found a similar pattern, where elds were
cultivated seasonally and wild elephants were
able to feed on grass only for a brief period of
time (Pastorini et al. 2013). This indicates that
graze may be a signicant but transitory fodder in
the diet of some elephants (Pastorini et al. 2013).
The elephants in this study demonstrated a year
round preference for browse over graze. Our
results differ from ndings in India where grasses
comprised the majority of the elephants’ diet in
the wet season (Sukumar 1989) and dominated
the diet in deciduous forests (Baskaran et al.
2010; Sivaganesan & Johnsingh 1995). Our
ndings are consistent with a study in China that
showed browsing species accounted for a larger
proportion of the elephants’ diet (77 spp. taking
91% vs. 6 spp. taking 9%; Chen et al. 2006). These
ndings may indicate that grasses contribute a
smaller portion to Asian elephant diet in Southeast
Asia than in the Indian subcontinent (Chen et al.
2006; Himmelsbach et al. 2006; Campos-Arceiz
et al. 2008). However a study from West Bengal,
India reported 56% of elephants’ bite counts
were browse species (Roy & Chowdhury 2014).
Therefore elephants may vary in their use of
grass and browse geographically, possibly due to
differences in availability.
Frequency and foraging time are not the only
indicators of importance in the elephants’ diet,
and even rarely used plants may have important
roles (Himmelsbach et al. 2006). In fact,
elephants might be very particular about how
much they consume of specic plant types or
parts in order to balance nutritional requirements
while limiting consumption of potentially toxic
plant compounds (Campos-Arceiz et al. 2008).
Large herbivores such as elephants may require
a more diverse diet than smaller herbivores due
to slower metabolic processes and detoxication
rates (Freeland 1991).
Acknowledgements
Thank you to Kindred Spirit Elephant Foundation
and Sanctuary for the logistical support in
organizing eld work, Talia Gale for establishing
and overseeing the research project for 20
months, and the mahouts of the ve elephants
for their extensive knowledge of local ora. We
would like to thank all interns and Biosphere
Expeditions for their help in data collection and
continuous support. Plant identication would
not have been possible without the work of
botanist Parchaya Srisanga.
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Appendix. List of all plants recorded in this study organized by family, including number of species
documented in each family (N), percentage of time the elephants spent foraging on each species out
of the total of 17,912 minutes (% Time), the plant type and parts consumed (B = bark, F = fruit, L =
leaf, R = root, T = twig, St = stem, Sh = shoot, WP = whole plant).
% Plant part(s) consumed
Family N Latin name Type Time B F L R T St Sh WP
Adoxaceae 1 Viburnum sp. Tree 0.01 X X
Amaranthaceae 1 Amaranthus viridis Herb 0.04 X
Anacardiaceae 6 Buchanania lanzan Tree 1.19 X X X X X
Gluta obovata Tree 0.40 X X
Gluta usitata Tree 1.40 X X X X X
Mangifera sp. Tree 0.51 X X X
Spondias pinnata Tree 0.82 X
Anacardiaceae sp. Tree 0.03 X
11
% Plant part(s) consumed
Family N Latin name Type Time B F L R T St Sh WP
Annonaceae 1 Annonaceae sp. Tree 0.32 X X
Apocynaceae 4 Horrharena pubescen Tree 0.10 X X X X
Wrightia arborea Tree 0.12 X X X X
Apocynaceae sp. 1 Climber 0.01 X X
Apocynaceae sp. 2 Tree 0.94 X X X X X
Araliaceae 1 Radermachera sp. Tree 3.63 X X X X X X
Arecaceae 1 Phoenix loureiroi Tree 0.47 X X X X X
Asparagaceae 1 Asparagus licinus Herb 0.01 X X
Asteraceae 3 Ageratum conyzoides Herb 0.02 X
Crassocephalum crepidioides Herb 0.21 X X
Asteraceae sp. Climber 0.01 X X
Capparaceae 1 Capparis sp. Tree 0.08 X
Celastraceae 1 Celastrus paniculatus Climber 0.12 XXX
Clusiaceae 1 Cratoxylum formosum Tree 0.44 X X X X
Commelinaceae 2 Commelina paludosa Herb 0.01 X
Commelinaceae sp. Grass 0.01 X
Convolvulaceae 2 Ipomea hederifolia Climber 0.02 X X
Convolvulaceae sp. Climber 0.15 X
Costaceae 1 Cheilocostus speciosus Herb 0.01 X X
Cucurbitaceae 1Cucurbita maxima Climber 0.02 X X X
Dilleniaceae 1 Dillenia sp. Tree 0.63 X X
Dioscoreaceae 3 Dioscorea sp. 1 Climber 0.01 X X
Dioscorea sp. 2 Climber 0.01 X X
Dioscorea sp. 3 Climber 0.25 X XX
Dipterocarpaceae 3 Dipterocarpus tuberculatus Tree 0.05 X
Pentacme siamensis Tree 0.13 X X X X
Shorea obtusa Tree 1.70 X X X X X
Equisetaceae 1 Equisetum ramosissimum Herb 0.10 X
Euphorbiaceae 3 Macaranga denticulata Tree 0.11 X
Mallotus philippensis Tree 0.59 X X X X
Euphorbiaceae sp. Climber 0.01 X
Fabaceae 28 Acacia megaladena Climber 0.15 X X
Acacia sp. Tree 0.88 XXX
Albizia odoratissima Tree 0.03 XX
Albizia sp. Tree 0.83 XXX X
Archidendron sp. Tree 0.37 XXX
Bauhinia sp. Tree 0.09 X
Cassia stula Tree 0.01 XX
Dalbergia sp. 1 Tree 0.01 X XX
Dalbergia sp. 2 Tree 0.41 X X X
12
% Plant part(s) consumed
Family N Latin name Type Time B F L R T St Sh WP
Entada rheedii Climber 1.33 XXX X
Erythrina variegata Tree 0.03 X X
Mimosa pigra Shrub 0.23 XX X
Mimosa pudica Herb 0.11 X
Mucuna sp. Climber 0.15 X XX
Pachyrhizus sp. Climber 2.28 X X XX
Phylacium majus Climber 0.05 X
Pueraria sp. 1 Climber 0.02 X X
Pueraria sp. 2 Climber 0.12 X
Sphatolobus sp. Climber 6.20 X XX
Tamarindus indica Tree 0.12 XX
Xylia xylocarpa Tree 0.22 X X XX
Fabaceae sp. 1 Climber 0.06 X X
Fabaceae sp. 2 Climber 0.08 X X
Fabaceae sp. 3 Climber 0.01 X
Fabaceae sp. 4 Climber 0.04 X X
Fabaceae sp. 5 Tree 0.06 X
Fabaceae sp. 6 Climber 0.09 X X
Fabaceae sp. 7 Shrub 0.07 XXX
Fagaceae 4 Lithocarpus sp. Tree 0.01 X X
Quercus kerrii Tree 0.56 X X X X X X
Quercus sp. 1 Tree 0.09 X
Quercus sp. 2 Tree 0.03 X
Lamiaceae 3 Tectona grandis Tree 1.01 X X X X
Vitex sp. 1 Tree 0.01 X
Vitex sp. 2 Tree 0.03 X X
Lecythidaceae 1 Careya arborea Tree 0.11 X
Loganiaceae 1 Strychnos nux-blanda Tree 0.03 X X
Lythraceae 4 Lagerstroemia sp. 1 Shrub 0.02 X
Lagerstroemia sp. 2 Tree 0.07 XX
Lagerstroemia speciosa Tree 0.11 X X
Lagerstroemia villosa Tree 0.01 X
Malvaceae 3 Grewia laevigata Tree 0.03 X
Grewia sp. Tree 0.37 X X X
Sterculia foetida Tree 0.35 X X
Menispermaceae 3Tinospora crispa Climber 0.17 X X
Tinospora sp. Climber 0.05 X X
Menispermaceae sp. Climber 0.03 X
Moraceae 9Broussonetia papyrifera Tree 0.03 X
Ficus hispida Tree 0.13 X
13
% Plant part(s) consumed
Family N Latin name Type Time B F L R T St Sh WP
Ficus racemosa/stulosa Tree 1.35 X X X X X X
Ficus religiosa Climber 0.12 XX
Ficus semicordata Tree 0.03 XX
Ficus sp. 1 Tree 0.27 XXXX
Ficus sp. 2 Tree 0.02 X
Ficus sp. 3 Tree 0.01 X
Ficus sp. 4 Tree 0.01 XX
Musaceae 1 Musa spp. Tree 1.32 X XXX
Myrsinaceae 2 Ardisia sp. Tree 0.34 XXXX
Embelia sp. Tree 0.01 X
Myrtaceae 1 Syzgium sp. Tree 0.17 X X X X
Oleaceae 1 Olea salicifolia Tree 0.01 X X
Orchidaceae 2 Dendrobium sp. Shrub 0.06 X
Orchidaceae sp. Shrub 0.01 X
Pandanaceae 1 Pandanus sp. Shrub 0.02 X
Passioraceae 1Passiora edulis Climber 0.16 X XX
Phyllanthaceae 4 Antidesma sp. Tree 0.01 X
Aporosa sp. Tree 0.11 X X X X X
Aporosa villosa Tree 0.03 X
Phyllanthus emblica Tree 0.01 X
Piperaceae 1 Piper sp. Climber 0.01 X X
Poaceae 16 Apluda mutica Grass 0.06 X
Arundinella setosa Grass 0.01 X
Bambusa sp. Bamboo 3.68 XXXXX
Cyrtococcum accrescens Grass 0.07 X
Dendrocalamus sp. Bamboo 40.27 XXXXX
Imperata cylindrica Grass 0.10 X
Microstegium vagans Grass 0.15 X
Oryza sativa Grass 0.27 X
Panicum notatum Grass 0.03 X
Pennisetum purpureum Grass 1.34 X
Thysanolaena latifolia Grass 0.03 X
Zea mays Grass 7.93 X X XX
Poaceae sp. 1 Grass 0.24 X
Poaceae sp. 2 Grass 0.03 X
Poaceae sp. 3 Grass 0.74 X
Poaceae sp. 4 Grass 1.14 X
Polygalaceae 1 Xanthophyllum sp. Tree 0.01 X
Primulaceae 2 Ardisia crenata Shrub 0.03 X
Embelia sp. Tree 0.41 X X X X
14
% Plant part(s) consumed
Family N Latin name Type Time B F L R T St Sh WP
Rosaceae 2 Rubus sp. 1 Shrub 0.08 X
Rubus sp. 2 Shrub 0.01 X
Rubiaceae 6 Gardenia sootepensis Tree 1.11 X X X X X X
Hymenodictyon orixense Tree 0.07 X X X
Paederia foetida Climber 0.51 XXX
Rubiaceae sp. 1 Tree 0.14 X X X
Rubiaceae sp. 2 Tree 0.24 X X X X
Rubiaceae sp. 3 Tree 0.08 X
Rutaceae 3 Clausena sp. Tree 0.01 X
Toddalia asiatica Climber 0.04 X
Rutaceae sp. Shrub 0.03 XX
Sapindaceae 1 Dimocarpus longan Tree 0.47 X X X X
Smilacaceae 1 Smilax ovalifolia Climber 0.03 X X
Solanaceae 2 Solanum erianthum Shrub 0.09 X
Solanum torvum Shrub 0.70 X X X X X
Tectariaceae 1Tectaria sp. Shrub 0.04 X
Tiliaceae 2 Grewia eriocarpa Tree 1.22 X X X
Tiliaceae sp. Tree 0.53 X X X X
Ulmaceae 1 Holoptelea integrifolia Tree 0.02 X
Urticaceae 1 Boehmeria sp. Herb 0.01 X X
Vitaceae 4 Cayratia sp. Shrub 0.01 X
Cissus sp. Climber 0.04 X
Vitaceae sp. 1 Shrub 0.01 X
Vitaceae sp. 2 Shrub 0.02 X X
Zingiberaceae 3 Zingiberaceae sp. 1 Grass 0.03 X
Zingiberaceae sp. 2 Grass 0.01 X
Zingiberaceae sp. 3 Herb 0.32 X X
Identied by Mahouts
Euphorbiaceae 1 Manihot esculenta Shrub X
Fabaceae 2 Albizia chinensis Tree X
Fabaceae sp. 8 Climber X
Fagaceae 1 Castanopsis sp. Tree X
Gnetaceae 1 Gnetum sp. Climber X
Hypoxidaceae 1 Curculigo sp. Tree X
Moraceae 1 Ficus sp. 5 Tree XX
Poaceae 3 Pennisetum polystachyon Grass X
Saccharum sp. Grass X
Poaceae sp. 5 Grass X
Unidentied 24 unknown species 1.58
Total 189 100
... There are currently no guidelines for feeding captive elephants in Thailand. A paper regarding the foraging habits of the elephants at KSES has been published in a peer-reviewed journal (Schwarz et al. 2020). From this information, this project aims to generate suggested feeding guidelines for elephants in captivity so that their diet is more akin to a natural diet. ...
...  Publish activity budget and association data in a peer-reviewed journal, in order to create an elephant management guide to be distributed to elephant venues in Thailand and around the world. A paper on the foraging habits of the elephants at KSES is currently in print in a peer-reviewed journal (Schwarz et al. 2020). ...
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
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