Understanding temporal social dynamics in zoo animal management: an elephant case study

Williams, E. ORCID: 0000-0003-4492-1605, Bremner-Harrison, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-4770-1376, Hall, C. and Carter, A. ORCID: 0000-0002-6216-2377, 2020. Understanding temporal social dynamics in zoo animal management: an elephant case study. Animals, 10 (5): 882. ISSN 2076-2615

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Zoo animal management procedures which lead to changes to social groups can cause disruption in social hierarchies and the temporary breakdown of social relationships. Animals have different roles in social networks. Understanding individual positions in social networks is important for effective management and ensuring positive welfare for all animals. Using elephants as a case study, the aim of this research was to investigate temporal social dynamics in zoo animals. Behavioural data were collected between January 2016 and February 2017 from 10 African and 22 Asian elephants housed at seven zoos and safari parks in the UK and Ireland. Social interactions were defined as positive physical, positive non-physical, negative physical or negative non-physical. Social network analysis explored social relationships including the fluidity of networks over time and dyadic reciprocity. Social interaction networks were found to be fluid but did not follow a seasonal pattern. Positive interaction networks tended to include the entire social group whereas negative interactions were restricted to specific individuals. Unbalanced ties were observed within dyads, suggesting potential inequalities in relationships. This could impact on individual experiences and welfare. This research highlights subtle temporal dynamics in zoo elephants with the potential for species-level differences. Similar temporal dynamics may also be present in other socially housed zoo species. This research thus provides evidence for the importance of understanding the social networks of zoo animals over longer periods of time. Understanding social networks enables pro-active and evidence-based management approaches. Further research should seek to identify the minimum sampling efforts for social networks in a range of species, to enable the implementation of regular monitoring of social networks and thus improve the welfare of social species under human care.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Animals
Creators: Williams, E., Bremner-Harrison, S., Hall, C. and Carter, A.
Publisher: MDPI
Date: 19 May 2020
Volume: 10
Number: 5
ISSN: 2076-2615
Rights: © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Divisions: Schools > School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 28 May 2020 08:40
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 12:18
URI: https://irep.ntu.ac.uk/id/eprint/39905

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