Date of Award
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, but spend a fair amount of time with other calves (Moss et al., 2011). 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 (Shoshani, 2000). I predicted that male and female calves would have different, but overlapping, behavioral repertoires and the behavior of elephant calves ex situ would resemble that of elephant calves in situ. I observed video obtained from a pair of calves, both conceived by artificial insemination, and born and housed at the Indianapolis Zoo. The pair included a male calf (Ajani) and a female calf (Amali). I analyzed archival data collected during 2000-2003, with each observation session lasting between 30-60 minutes, focusing on social play behaviors between the calf pair. The male calf engaged in more reproductive behaviors: play-mount, and trunk-over-back-from-behind, typical of male African elephant calves in situ. The female calf engaged in more affiliative behaviors including: trunk-to-genitals, and trunk-to-mouth, typical of female African elephant calves in situ. The key behavioral difference was the male engaged in stereotypical male mating behavior, while the female did not. These calves had never observed an adult male elephant. Thus, it seems likely the mating behaviors displayed by the male were innate reflexes.
Ruppert, Samantha, "Sex Differences in the Play of African Elephant Calves (Loxodonta africana) in Captivity" (2019). Undergraduate Honors Thesis Collection. 502.