• A comparison of walking rates Between wild and zoo African elephants

      Miller, Lance J.; Chase, Michael J.; Hacker, Charlotte E. (2016)
      The goal of the current study was to compare the walking rates of elephants in the wild versus elephants in zoos to determine if elephants are walking similar distances relative to their wild counterparts. Eleven wild elephants throughout different habitats and locations in Botswana were compared to 8 elephants at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Direct comparisons revealed no significant difference in average walking rates of zoo elephants when compared with wild elephants….
    • Devastating decline of forest elephants in Central Africa

      Maisels, F.; Strindberg, S.; Blake, S.; Wittemyer, G.; Hart, J.; Williamson, E. A.; Aba'a, R.; Abitsi, G.; Ambahe, R. D.; Amsini, F.; et al. (2013)
      African forest elephants-taxonomically and functionally unique-are being poached at accelerating rates, but we lack range-wide information on the repercussions. Analysis of the largest survey dataset ever assembled for forest elephants (80 foot-surveys; covering 13,000 km; 91,600 person-days of fieldwork) revealed that population size declined by ca. 62% between 2002-2011, and the taxon lost 30% of its geographical range. The population is now less than 10% of its potential size, occupying less than 25% of its potential range. High human population density, hunting intensity, absence of law enforcement, poor governance, and proximity to expanding infrastructure are the strongest predictors of decline. To save the remaining African forest elephants, illegal poaching for ivory and encroachment into core elephant habitat must be stopped. In addition, the international demand for ivory, which fuels illegal trade, must be dramatically reduced.
    • Elephant behavior toward the dead: A review and insights from field observations

      Goldenberg, Shifra Z.; Wittemyer, George (2020)
      Many nonhuman animals have been documented to take an interest in their dead. A few socially complex and cognitively advanced taxa—primates, cetaceans, and proboscideans—stand out for the range and duration of behaviors that they display at conspecific carcasses....
    • Examination of enrichment using space and food for African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

      Hacker, CE; Miller, Lance J.; Schulte, BA (2018)
      Concern for elephant welfare in zoological facilities has prompted a number of exhibit and management modifications, including those involving enrichment. Knowledge of how these changes impact indicators of welfare, such as elephant movement and behaviour, is crucial for continued improvement of elephant husbandry and care....
    • Incorporating mortality into habitat selection to identify secure and risky habitats for savannah elephants

      Roever, C. L.; van Aarde, R. J.; Chase, Michael J. (2013)
      Empirical models of habitat selection are increasingly used to guide and inform habitat-based management plans for wildlife species. However, habitat selection does not necessarily equate to habitat quality particularly if selection is maladaptive, so incorporating measures of fitness into estimations of occurrence is necessary to increase model robustness. Here, we incorporated spatially explicit mortality events with the habitat selection of elephants to predict secure and risky habitats in northern Botswana....
    • Increasing conservation translocation success by building social functionality in released populations

      Goldenberg, Shifra Z.; Owen, Megan A.; Brown, Janine L.; Wittemyer, George; Oo, Zaw Min; Leimgruber, Peter (2019)
      The importance of animal behavior to successful wildlife translocations has been acknowledged in recent decades, and it has been increasingly considered and more frequently incorporated into translocation management and research. However, explicit consideration of social behavior is often overlooked in this context. Social relationships take a variety of forms (e.g., cooperative partners, members of a dominance hierarchy, territorial neighbors) and play important roles in survival, reproduction, and resource exploitation. We review the ways in which concepts from studies of social behavior in wild populations may be leveraged to increase translocation success. Social structure and cohesion, social roles, social learning, and social competency may all be important to consider in building populations that are resilient and likely to persist. We argue that relevant data collected at all stages of translocation, including candidate selection, and during pre-release, release, and post-release monitoring, may inform the establishment of functional social structure post-release in species dependent on social processes. Integrating knowledge of social behavior into management decisions may be particularly useful when comparing the success of alternative release protocols or release candidate behavioral traits. Complementary datasets on a range of fitness-related metrics post-release will further leverage our understanding of social establishment in translocated populations. We illustrate the potential of these ideas using Asian and African elephants as a model. Both species are particularly challenging to manage but are translocated frequently; thus, evidence-based protocols for conservation translocations of elephants are urgently needed.
    • Personality assessment in African elephants (Loxodonta africana): Comparing the temporal stability of ethological coding versus trait rating

      Horback, Kristina M.; Miller, Lance J.; Kuczaj, Stan A. (2013)
      The consistency of personality assessment was addressed in this study of 12 zoological African elephants living at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA, USA during the 2010 and 2011 summer seasons. Using 480 h of observational behavior data, three personality traits were determined based on behavior events, with the most significant correlations (two-tailed rs > 0.77, P < 0.005) being playful, curious, and sociable….
    • Social learning in captive African elephants (Loxodonta africana africana)

      Greco, Brian J.; Brown, Tracey K.; Andrews, Jeff R. M.; Swaisgood, Ronald R.; Caine, Nancy G. (2013)
      …Social learning is assumed to be important for elephants, but evidence in support of that claim is mostly anecdotal. Using a herd of six adult female African bush elephants (Loxodonta africana africana) at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, we evaluated whether viewing a conspecific’s interactions facilitated learning of a novel task….
    • Spatial mapping shows that some African elephants use cognitive maps to navigate the core but not the periphery of their home ranges

      Presotto, Andrea; Fayrer-Hosken, Richard; Curry, Caitlin; Madden, Marguerite (2019)
      Strategies of navigation have been shown to play a critical role when animals revisit resource sites across large home ranges. The habitual route system appears to be a sufficient strategy for animals to navigate while avoiding the cognitive cost of traveling using the Euclidean map....
    • Strongylid infection varies with age, sex, movement and social factors in wild African elephants

      Parker, Jenna M.; Goldenberg, Shifra Z.; Letitiya, David; Wittemyer, George (2019)
      Comparing parasitic infection among individuals of wildlife populations can provide insight into factors that influence wildlife disease ecology. Strongylids are parasitic worms that infect the intestinal tract of vertebrates, and infection with strongylids can be approximated by counting strongylid eggs in dung samples....
    • Strongylid infection varies with age, sex, movement and social factors in wild African elephants

      Parker, Jenna M.; Goldenberg, Shifra Z.; Letitiya, David; Wittemyer, George (2020)
      Comparing parasitic infection among individuals of wildlife populations can provide insight into factors that influence wildlife disease ecology. Strongylids are parasitic worms that infect the intestinal tract of vertebrates, and infection with strongylids can be approximated by counting strongylid eggs in dung samples....
    • TP53 gene and cancer resistance in elephants

      Pessier, Allan P.; Stern, Jere K.; Witte, Carmel L. (2016)
      To the Editor: The study by Dr Abegglen and colleagues affirmed the Peto paradox and suggested that elephants are cancer resistant by virtue of multiple TP53 gene copies and enhanced responses to DNA damage. This study epitomizes a “One Health” approach to solving important disease problems shared by humans and animals. However, from our experience working in a large zoo-based , we were surprised by the results because, unlike in the notoriously cancer-resistant naked mole rats, we have diagnosed cancers in several elephants.
    • Utilizing first occurrence, nursing behavior, and growth data to enhance animal management: An example with African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

      Miller, Lance J.; Andrews, Jeff (2013)
      One of the many goals of zoological institutions is to actively breed endangered species to enhance conservation efforts. Unfortunately, many of these species are not reproducing at high enough levels to sustain populations within zoos. Low reproductive success and high infant mortality are two areas of concern for some of these species. Collecting behavioral data on developmental milestones following successful births can create a database of information to aide animal management to help make more informed decisions during subsequent births. The current study provides valuable information for African elephant calf developmental norms and demonstrates how data on first occurrences, nursing behavior and growth patterns can aide animal management. Data were collected on eleven African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA of which ten have survived. Results show that on average African elephant calves were standing within 40 minutes, attempted to nurse within an hour and a half, and successfully nursed within six hrs. There were no significant differences in nursing rates, growth patterns, or first occurrence behaviors between males and females during the first 75 days of life and elephants gained on average 0.59 kg/day over that same period of time. Results also show a significant change in nursing behavior on day 22 for the elephant calf that died. This information is intended to serve as a resource for elephant managers with newborn African elephants and to serve as a model to develop similar type databases for other species in need within zoological institutions.
    • Utilizing first occurrence, nursing behavior, and growth data to enhance animal management: An example with African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

      Miller, Lance J.; Andrews, J. (2013)
      One of the many goals of zoological institutions is to actively breed endangered species to enhance conservation efforts. Unfortunately, many of these species are not reproducing at high enough levels to sustain populations within zoos. Low reproductive success and high infant mortality are two areas of concern for some of these species. Collecting behavioral data on developmental milestones following successful births can create a database of information to aide animal management to help make more informed decisions during subsequent births. The current study provides valuable information for African elephant calf developmental norms and demonstrates how data on first occurrences, nursing behavior and growth patterns can aide animal management. Data were collected on eleven African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA of which ten have survived. Results show that on average African elephant calves were standing within 40 minutes, attempted to nurse within an hour and a half, and successfully nursed within six hrs. There were no significant differences in nursing rates, growth patterns, or first occurrence behaviors between males and females during the first 75 days of life and elephants gained on average 0.59 kg/day over that same period of time. Results also show a significant change in nursing behavior on day 22 for the elephant calf that died. This information is intended to serve as a resource for elephant managers with newborn African elephants and to serve as a model to develop similar type databases for other species in need within zoological institutions.