Friday, 15 July 2016

Scientists, zoos team up on landmark elephant welfare project

Date:July 14, 2016
Source:University of California - Davis

Given that elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet, one might expect that when it comes to enclosures for zoo elephants, size matters.

However, a newly released study in which the University of California, Davis, played a key role reveals that social interactions and having an array of opportunities to engage with their surroundings may be more important for elephants than space.

The research effort is the largest multi-institutional zoo-elephant welfare project conducted to date and includes nine studies that analyzed the lives of 255 African and Asian elephants in 68 accredited North American zoos. The results will be released July 14 as a special collection in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, published by the Public Library of Science.

The goals and comprehensive findings of these studies will be presented in a companion overview.

"This is the first coordinated set of studies aimed at evaluating a number of behavioral and physical aspects of welfare for the North American zoo elephant population and, importantly, identifying the most important aspects of elephant management, housing and care," said Cheryl Meehan, a UC Davis staff research associate in the Department of Population Health and Reproduction, School of Veterinary Medicine. Meehan provided consulting services to the project through her organization, AWARE Institute, and is the lead author for the overview.

Time alone is risk factor for zoo elephants

The full research collection contains studies on elephant welfare factors including behavior, body condition, foot-and-joint health, female reproductive function and walking distance.

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