Schiffmann, C., Hård, T., Hjelm, M. et al. 2020. Soft and persistent—The influence of sand-flooring and calves on the resting behavior of a zoo-kept African elephant (Loxodonta africana) group. Zoo Biology 39(1), 56-62.
Caring for all aspects of zoo elephants’ well-being is considered a major challenge. Providing an appropriate flooring substrate to facilitate lying rest presents a meaningful part of a holistic management concept. Investigating the impact of a new sand flooring on the nocturnal resting behavior of a breeding group of seven African elephants living at one zoo revealed more total lying rest, longer bouts of lying rest and a reduced side preference in the adult females. With an average total daily lying rest of about 1.5-2.0 hrs, the investigated zoo elephants expressed longer lying rest compared to recently reported data from free-ranging individuals in Botswana. In addition, the presence of nursing calves in the observed elephant group seemed to impact the resting pattern of all group members, with around 60% of all lying bouts being discontinued after interruption by the youngsters. With respect to observed nursing during leaning rest, we encourage the installation of appropriate horizontal structures in breeding facilities to support leaning rest behavior of their female elephants. In doing so, zoos may improve rest quality of nursing females, and, in general, the welfare aspect of sleep for their elephants.