The effect of rubberized flooring on Asian elephant behavior in captivity Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/nk322h70j

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  • An experiment was designed to determine the effects of a poured rubber flooring substrate on the behavior of captive Asian elephants. Additionally, room utilization was evaluated in a series of seven rooms used for indoor housing. These seven rooms were divided into two observation areas, the Front observation area which consisted of three rooms, the viewing room, the middle room and the dead-end room, and the Back observation area which consisted of four rooms, labeled room 1, 2, 3 and 4. Three separate phases of the study were conducted. Phase I ("Baseline Phase") consisted of examining elephant behavior on old concrete floors, except for the viewing room in the Front observation area, which had old rubberized flooring. Phase II ("Choice Phase"), was conducted only in the Back observation area and consisted of observing elephant behavior when a choice of two flooring substrates was available. New rubberized flooring was installed in rooms 1 and 4 and rooms 2 and 3 remained concrete. Phase III ("Final Phase") of the study, consisted of observing elephant behavior when all rooms in both observation areas, Front and Back, were poured with new rubberized flooring. Subjects for this study were six elephants at the Oregon Zoo who were observed using closed-circuit, real-time video cameras during the hours of 11:00 to 14:00 and 18:00 to 06:00 for a total of fifteen hours per observation day. Three observation days were recorded for each phase of the study in each of two observation areas. Observed behaviors were assigned single letter or single number codes. Video-recorded behaviors were reviewed and coded. Focal point sampling (observing one individual's behavior for a specified amount of time at specific points in time) was conducted on each of the six subjects. Five continuous minutes of behavior as well as room location were recorded for each individual subject on the hour and on the half hour of each fifteen-hour observation day. Room use in both of the observation areas remained relatively stable throughout the course of the study suggesting that flooring substrate did not affect room use choice. However, differences in behavior on the two flooring substrates, suggests that the rubber flooring may have provided a more comfortable surface to perform locomotion as well as standing resting behavior. There was a clear pattern of decreased discomfort behavior on the new rubber flooring. Both normal locomotion, as well as stereotypic locomotion increased on the new rubber flooring. In addition, resting behavior changed to more closely reflect the resting behavior of wild elephants, who typically sleep standing up and spend very little time in lateral recumbence (McKay, 1973). These results suggest that the new rubberized flooring may have provided a more comfortable surface for locomotion behavior as well as standing resting behavior and may be a beneficial addition to other animal facilities.
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