• Personality and behavioral changes in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) following the death of herd members

      Rutherford, Lucy; Murray, Lindsay Elaine; University of Chester
      Elephants are highly social beings with complex individual personalities. We know that elephants have a general interest in death, investigating carcasses, not just limited to kin; however, research does not explore in depth whether individuals change their behavior or personality following traumatic events, such as the death of a conspecific. Within a captive herd of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) housed at Chester Zoo, UK, we measured social behavior and proximity and personality using the Ten-Item Personality Inventory, and found age-related and relationship-related changes in both behavior and personality following the deaths of herd members. Overall, the herd spent less time socializing and engaging in affiliative behaviors following the death of the adult female when compared to baseline data, yet spent more time engaging in these behaviors after the death of two calves. The death of the central female had a dramatic impact on her infant calf, resulting in increasingly withdrawn behavior, yet had the opposite effect on her adult daughter, who subsequently established a more integrated role within the herd. Emotional Stability fell in the motherless calf but rose in an adult female, who had lost her adult daughter, but had a new calf to care for. We suggest that the greater impact on the behavior and personality of surviving herd members following the deaths of calves, compared to an adult member, attests to the significance of the unifying role played by calves within an elephant herd.