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Utilizing First Occurrence, Nursing Behavior, and Growth Data toEnhance Animal Management: An Example with African Elephants (Loxodonta africana)

  • Author(s): Miller, Lance J.
  • Andrews, Jeff
  • et al.
Abstract

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.

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