Kelly Summers ’17

Project TitleInfluence of Sex and Ambient Temperature on Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus) Dusting Behavior
Mentor – Shala Hankison

Previous studies indicate that elephant dusting behavior can be promoted by several factors including environmental temperature and social interaction. We hypothesized that (1) if dusting serves as a voluntary thermoregulatory function, then increased ambient temperature would result in increased dusting performance, and (2) if dusting is influenced by social interactions, then male and female elephants will exhibit dusting at similar rates in a group setting. Preliminary data indicated no significant relationship between temperature and the rate of dustings performed. Contrary to our predictions, females exhibited a greater rate of dusting than males in a social environment.

The current study reexamines the relationship between ambient temperature, elephant sex, and dusting performance. Understanding behavioral adaptations and striving to maintain natural instincts are key to facilitating a healthy captive environment. If we understand environmental factors that influence elephant behavior, perhaps we can identify aspects of their natural environment that need to be preserved in order to protect the species.