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Auditory stimulation as enrichment for zoo-housed Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)

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This study explored the effect of auditory stimulation on the behaviour and welfare of four zoo-housed, female Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). All animals were exposed, in an ABA design, to two conditions of auditory stimulation: a 'control' (no auditory stimulation), and an 'experimental' condition, during which the animals were presented with a commercially-available CD of classical music. Each condition lasted for five days, with an interim period of two days between each condition (Study 1). The elephants' behaviour was recorded every minute for four hours a day for the full five days of each condition using instantaneous scan-sampling. The procedure was repeated four months later (Study 2), for a shorter period of time (one day per condition, again using an ABA design) to assess whether the results are generalisable. Analysis of both studies revealed that the elephants spent significantly less of their time stereotyping during the experimental conditions than the control. None of the other behaviours recorded were influenced significantly by auditory stimulation. Overall, the findings from this study suggest that auditory stimulation, in the form of classical music, may be a useful method of reducing stereotypic behaviour in zoo-housed Asian elephants, although more long-term work with a larger number of animals is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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