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Chigusa Keller

Baby Lah Lah’s arrival in May 2019 was not only a very happy event for all of us, but also a chance to get unique insights into the behaviour of a baby elephant and its development. Therefore, when Lah Lah was old enough to be regularly visited on hikes, we adapted our data sheets to account for more specific behaviours only seen with the calf. Such behaviours are for example play behaviours with objects, other elephants or simply playful movements (e.g. swinging around the trunk, running around). At first, Lah Lah’s only food source was Kha Moon’s milk. But as she grew older, she started trying to feed on various objects such as grass, bamboo leaves, but also sticks lying around. Since all our older elephants already know what is edible and what isn’t, we didn’t see any of this “try feeding” behaviour, but we have added it to the data sheets now. In November 2019, Lah Lah was observed actually eating some bamboo leaves for the first time!

Our Elephant Science Coordinator, Chigusa, is responsible for analysing some of the data we are collecting. From our Activity Budget data, we found that all GVI elephants (except for the baby Lah Lah) spent the majority of time feeding & food preparing (around 65-71% of time observed). The next frequent activity was walking, followed by “other” activities and resting. The category “other” activities includes behaviours like object handling, environmental and self-exploration, interactions with other elephants, stereotyping, play behaviours, ear cocking or tail raising. Lah Lah’s activity budget differed significantly from that of all other GVI elephants. She spent most of the time doing “other” activities (mainly exploring, playing, interacting with other elephants), walked and rested about the same amount of time as all other elephants, but only spent a very small amount of time feeding (suckling milk from Kha Moon).

The subadult elephants Lulu, Dee Dee and Charlie were quite similar in their activity budget as the adult elephants, but spent a little less time resting than the adult elephants!

Short-term intern Ally Woosley examined the activity budget data of our juvenile male elephant Charlie. Charlie joined the GVI project in late 2016 after having worked as a painting and posing elephant in tourist camps. Before joining the project, he had never lived in the forest. Due to this, he did not know how to forage for himself in the forest and would spend the majority of his day walking, because that was what he was accustomed to doing during the day when still in the camp. The mahouts Lek and Patti Sayee, as well as Charlie’s grandmother Thong Dee put in a lot of effort to teach him how to forage for himself in the forest.

Next steps of data analysis are to analyse the social network of our elephants. This could give us some interesting insights into how social the individual elephants are and which other elephants they have the strongest bonds with.

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