Significant Improvements in the Welfare of Captive Elephants
Developing a standard objective locomotion scoring system for captive elephants in the UK and Ireland
The Elephant Welfare Group has been tasked with improving significantly the welfare of captive elephants in the UK and Ireland before the end of this decade. Since disease processes that result in abnormal locomotion are some of the most important welfare issues for captive elephants it is imperative we develop a simple yet comprehensive, objective locomotion scoring system that can be used (with reproducibility) in as many animals in the cohort as possible.
This Elephant Welfare Group sponsored project was designed to develop such a system. Two RVC veterinary undergraduate students visited all zoos except one holding elephants in the UK and Ireland and collected standard video footage of 73 out of a total of 74 elephants in the UK and Irish captive elephant cohort.
Through literature review and data review with expert input a criterion-based tabulated scoring system was developed and validated. Initial results from scoring elephants from the collected data suggest a significant proportion of the cohort experience abnormal locomotion and that the system will be useable by elephant managers to monitor abnormal locomotion, by individual, into the future.
ZSL London Zoo
WINNER of BIAZA Awards 2012 in Significant Advances in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine