57 per cent of elephants at Thai tourist facilities have nervous tics

3 weeks ago 6
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By Christa Lesté-Lasserre

An elephant raising its trunk implicit    its caput  arsenic  idiosyncratic    rides it

Tourists thrust connected elephant successful Chiang Mai, Thailand

aphotostory/Getty Images

More than fractional the elephants in multiple Thai tourer facilities person tense tics that whitethorn bespeak anxiety, vexation oregon boredom.

The engagement of scientists in the elephant tourism industry has led to improvements successful welfare, but many captive Thai elephants inactive make repetitive behaviours called stereotypies, which are akin to nervous tics.

Pakkanut Bansiddhi astatine Chiang Mai University successful Thailand and her colleagues observed the behaviour of 283 Indian elephants (Elephas maximus indicus) successful 20 tourer facilities successful Thailand’s Chiang Mai state wherever elephants springiness tourists rides, locomotion broadside by broadside with them and enactment successful shows.

The squad recovered that 57 per cent of these elephants showed repetitive behaviours, including swaying broadside to side, weaving oregon pacing around, bobbing their heads, making useless limb movements and rocking backmost and distant connected their feet, astatine slightest erstwhile successful a 15-minute period. This mightiness beryllium their mode of dealing with stressful situations similar separation from household members oregon being restrained successful chains, oregon adjacent coping with boredom, says Bansiddhi.

On average, the elephants did these things astir six times successful that period. The highest prevalence was successful elephants aged betwixt 4 and 10. Those younger than 3 and older than 50 were slightest apt to amusement these behaviours. Bansiddhi says this is much oregon little accordant with the statistic her squad calculated from nonstop interviews with 181 mahouts, oregon elephant handlers, connected the animals’ behaviour.

“I’m amazed the figures are not higher than that,” says Andrew McLean astatine the Human Elephant Learning Programs instauration successful Australia. “Wherever they concatenation elephants, determination are astir always locomotor stereotypies.”

Mahouts mostly abstracted young elephants from their mothers erstwhile they are 3 oregon 4 years old. Before that, the youngsters whitethorn acquisition comparatively small stress, says Bansiddhi. But aft the separation, their tics could bespeak however anxious they are successful their caller situation. Older elephants whitethorn person simply “learned to header amended with the accent successful their environment”, she says.

McLean, however, wonders if older elephants person reached a state called learned helplessness, in which animals give up trying to cope.

Journal reference: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105456

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