Lisa Olivier, GRI's Conservation Behaviour Specialist, explains the importance of gathering data about elephant behaviour demonstrated by the orphan herd.
"Understanding behaviour is essential for not only looking after orphaned elephants from the moment they are rescued, but it also gives them the best possible chance for a successful release."
Observing and understanding elephant behaviour helps us to establish “Behavioural Developmental Milestones” – by age/sex and release stages. These milestones form the basis of ‘release targets’ for all orphans to reach. We can see orphans of similar age/sex classes are developing at a similar rate which gives an indication of what is normal/to be expected.
By building up a pattern of “normal behaviour” for each individual elephant, we can see any changes that may indicate a health or welfare problem. We also hope with the information that we are gathering we can help organisations similar to us, who want to release elephants successfully back into the wild.
Video recordings and iPad data surveys are used to gather this information. It is then transferred online where it is organised by elephant, and used for long term research and pattern development.
Contributors: Lisa Olivier (GRI Conservation Behaviour Specialist)