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The Release of a Captive-Raised Female African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1UG, UK
Elephants For Africa, P.O. Box HA148 HAK, Maun, Botswana
Elephant Back Safaris, Private Bag 332, Maun, Botswana
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 28 March 2013; in revised form: 22 April 2013 / Accepted: 22 April 2013 / Published: 29 April 2013
Simple Summary: Managing captive elephants poses a significant challenge because of their complex social behaviour. While wild female elephants live in close-knit family groups of related individuals, captive herds often consist of unrelated animals. Some of the elephants in captive groups may be excluded by their companions and experience increased aggression, so that their welfare is compromised. There is no easy solution to this problem and novel approaches are required since slaughter of captive elephants is not publicly acceptable. We show that captive-raised female elephants can be released into the wild, survive and reproduce, and suggest that this management option should be explored further for female elephants currently held under various captive conditions.
Abstract: Wild female elephants live in close-knit matrilineal groups and housing captive elephants in artificial social groupings can cause significant welfare issues for individuals not accepted by other group members. We document the release of a captive-raised female elephant used in the safari industry because of welfare and management problems. She was fitted with a satellite collar, and spatial and behavioural data were collected over a 17-month period to quantify her interactions with the wild population. She was then monitored infrequently for a further five-and-a-half years. We observed few signs of aggression towards her from the wild elephants with which she socialized. She used an area of comparable size to wild female elephants, and this continued to increase as she explored new areas. Although she did not fully integrate into a wild herd, she had three calves of her own, and formed a social unit with another female and her calf that were later released from the same captive herd. We recommend that release to the wild be considered as a management option for other captive female elephants.
Keywords: African elephants; animal welfare; captive management; GPS; matrilineal groups; ranging behaviour; release to the wild; social behaviour
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MDPI and ACS Style
Evans, K.; Moore, R.J.; Harris, S. The Release of a Captive-Raised Female African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Animals 2013, 3, 370-385.
Evans K, Moore RJ, Harris S. The Release of a Captive-Raised Female African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Animals. 2013; 3(2):370-385.
Evans, Kate; Moore, Randall J.; Harris, Stephen. 2013. "The Release of a Captive-Raised Female African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) in the Okavango Delta, Botswana." Animals 3, no. 2: 370-385.