When elephants fall asleep: A literature review on elephant rest with case studies on elephant falling bouts, and practical solutions for zoo elephants

Submitted by Archiver on Fri, 26/10/2018 - 10:27
Abstract

Little attention has been paid to the resting and sleeping behavior of zoo elephants so far. An important concern is when elephants avoid lying down, due to degenerative joint and foot disease, social structure, or stressful environmental changes. Inability or unwillingness to lie down for resting is an important welfare issue, as it may impair sleep. We emphasize the importance of satisfying rest in elephants by reviewing the literature on resting behavior in elephants (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus) as well as the documentation of four cases from European zoos and our own direct observations in a zoo group of four female African elephants during 12 entire days. The common denominator in the case reports is the occurrence of a falling bout out of a standing position subsequently to a cessation of lying rest for different periods of time. Although well‐known in horses as “episodic collapse” or “excessive drowsiness,” this syndrome has not been described in elephants before. To enable its detection, we recommend nocturnal video monitoring for elephant‐keeping institutions. The literature evaluation as well as own observational data suggest an inverse relationship between lying rest and standing rest. Preventative measures consist of enclosure modifications that facilitate lying rest (e.g., sand hills) or standing rest in a leaning position as a substitute. Anecdotal observations suggest that the provision of appropriate horizontal environmental structures may encourage safe, sleep‐conducive standing rest. We provide drawings on how to install such structures. Effects of providing such structures should be evaluated in the future.

 
References

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https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/zoo.21406

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