Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard Saudargas


Translocation, the transfer of animals from one location to another, is an important and common aspect of captivity, although little scientific knowledge has been gained from the process. The purpose of this study was to add to the scientific literature on captive large mammal translocation through behavioral observation of a captive group of African elephants, Loxodonta africana. Knoxville Zoological Gardens moved three female and one male African Elephants to a newly constructed barn and large elephant yard, utilizing a stepwise process in which they were first moved inside a new barn and then released into the new yard through a series of increasing sized outside enclosures. The four elephants were observed for a period of two years totaling 357hours of observation: 12 weeks of baseline data and 17 weeks of post translocation observations. Elephants were observed using 20 min focal animal sampling using a single subject observational design. Twenty-four different behaviors were measured across five different environments. Data were analyzed using both ANOV A and analysis of graphs of each behavior averaged in I-week bins. Moving the elephants in stages allowed the potentially hazardous behaviors of the initial translocation to occur in the protective environment of the barn and not to occur in the spacious and more hazardous new yard, in a fashion similar to soft release in wild translocation studies. The behavioral indicators of stress lasted for 4-6 weeks after translocation. Included is an analysis of gross behavioral changes, stress related behaviors, social changes, and translocation success. Larger enclosures produced an increase in social behaviors and a decrease in abnormal stereotypic behaviors. One female and the male increased their social behaviors, including the addition of some overtly sexually related behaviors. However, another female stopped her normal sex hormone cycling due to translocation. All together the elephants appear to be in an improved state after the translocation

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