Ethology and Training of Elephants

A review on the ethology, behaviour and training of a captive animal

BSc Zoo Animal Management Year 2
Word count: 2554 (not including table)


Summary | 3 |
Introduction | 4 |
Ethology and Behaviour in the Wild | 4 |
Training in Captivity | 6 |
Conclusion | 11 |
References | 12 |
Bibliography | 13 |

Elephant training is important within the zoo environment, as it aids in the husbandry regime, any medical and veterinary treatment and any daily health care, such as foot treatment for elephants. For successful training, you need to know how animals learn; this is usually through having a positive/neutral relationship with the animal and to use positive reinforcement training; and to give the animal something it desires such as food or something as simple as praise or attention from the keeper. The most frequent used methods to train animals in zoos are based on operant conditioning techniques; simply reinforcing a behaviour will increase the likelihood that it will occur again in the future (Hosey et al, 2009). The other type of method of training is known as classical conditioning; which is learning by the association of 2 or more stimuli which the animal has no control over the events.

Elephants have been trained by humans for many of years, even before zoos where established. However recently in the past 40 years hands on contact with animals were kept to a minimum, except for elephants and some marine mammals. ‘The specifics of how an elephant is trained depend upon the sex, species, and individual personality of the elephant. Many trainers feel that African elephants, Loxodonta africana, are more difficult to train that Asian elephants, Elephas maximus, because of their more “excitable” nature’ (Mellen J & Ellis S, 1996). Within elephant training, an elephant hook can be used to control, prod, signal, direct and / or to punish the elephant. Elephants are known to be clever animals and are able to...