Date of Award

Spring 4-29-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Departments/Programs

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Joshua Plotnik

Second Advisor

Dr. Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere

Academic Program Adviser

Dr. Diana Reiss

Abstract

Much of what we know about Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) behavioral ecology is the result of long-term ethological studies on wild elephants in India and Sri Lanka or experimental research on captive elephant behavior and cognition. While it is important to study the behavior and ecology of elephants to understand the evolution of adaptations that have made them well-suited for their natural environments, there is also a growing need to study populations of wild Asian elephants for applied conservation purposes. More specifically, elephants are endangered and are facing increasing threats such as human-elephant conflict. In this study, behavioral data were collected via camera traps across two overarching locations in the Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi, Thailand: (1) at watering holes inside a protected area, and (2) at crop fields bordering it. Video footage from the study sites was analyzed to broadly assess the proportion of individuals engaged in a variety of species-specific behaviors, as well as to compare social behavior between the two locations. Additionally, comparisons were made to assess if certain behaviors occurred at higher rates in the daytime or nighttime. The results indicate that (1) individuals in this population of wild Asian elephants were engaging in a variety of species-specific behaviors such as locomotion, social, and physical maintenance behaviors; (2) there is a significant difference in the rate of social behavior based on the location of the elephants in relation to their proximity to humans (i.e., inside of the protected area compared to around crop fields); and (3) physical maintenance occurs at a significantly higher rate during the day than at night. To my knowledge, this study is among the first to use video collected from camera traps to investigate the behavior of a population of wild Asian elephants in a Salakpra Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand. While this study provides a general overview of wild Asian elephant behavior, future investigations that take individual identity of observed elephants into account will provide greater detail about individual variation in behavior and choice of location.

Keywords: Asian elephants, wild, behavior, activity, time of day, camera traps, social

Available for download on Wednesday, April 27, 2022

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