Sex Differences in the Play of African Elephant (Loxodonta africana) Calves Ex situ

Samantha Ruppert Butler University
Faculty Sponsor(s): Robert Dale Butler University
African elephants (Loxodonta africana) live in a tiered society, with hundreds of elephants in a population (Moss, Croze, & Lee, 2011). Calves below eight years of age are within five meters of their mother 80% of the time (Moss et al., 2011), but spend a fair amount of time with other calves. Calf play in the first year of life includes: pushing each other’s heads (sparring), wrestling, and chasing. These activities prepare each sex for its adult role. I predicted male and female calves will have different, but overlapping, behavioral repertoires and the behavior of elephant calves ex situ will resemble that of elephant calves in situ. I observed video obtained from two pairs of calves, all conceived by artificial insemination, and born and housed at the Indianapolis Zoo. Each pair included a male and a female calf. I analyzed data collected during 2000-2003 and 2006-2009, with each observation session lasting between 30-60 minutes. The calves engaged in the “play sparring,” typical of African elephant calves in situ, but also spent considerable time in close proximity without interacting physically. The key behavioral difference was the males engaged in stereotypical male mating behavior, while the females did not. These calves had never observed another male and female elephant together. Thus, it seems likely the mating behaviors males displayed were innate reflexes.
Oral Presentation

When & Where

11:15 AM
Pharmacy & Health Sciences 156