Social Behavior and Personality Patterns of Captive African Elephants
Through the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, I received an International Research Opportunities Program (IROP) grant to study the social behaviors of African elephants. My research took place in South Africa with the African Elephant ResearchUnit at Knysna ElephantPark. Elephants live in herds and have very strong social bonds. The social interactions and dominance hierarchy between individuals of a herd depend upon many factors, including maternal lineage, age, sex, and personality traits of the elephants.I studied how social behaviors among captive elephants vary throughout the day on an hourly time scale, if those behavior patterns are related to age, and if handler perceptions of elephant personality are an accurate predictor of those social behaviors.To answer these questions, I spent about six hours in the field, four days a week, observing a herd of seven elephants and recording every time that any of the elephants interacted with each other.I also surveyed the elephant handlers regarding their perceptions of the elephants’ social behaviors and personality.The results of this study aim to give insight into the best management practices for African elephants in captivity, with special consideration for their patterns of social behavior.