Environmental enrichment is used to improve the welfare of captive animals by offering some biologically relevant resource. This study aimed at designing environmental enrichment (EE) for two female Asian elephants and assessing the EE, using the maximum price paid concept. Maximum price paid quantifies the value of a single access to a specific quantity of a resource, after a given period of deprivation. The elephants were trained to lift weights to get access to the EE. Each elephant did one session per day, with increased weights, until she had reached her maximum. The EE tested was a shower (offered both outdoors and indoors) and 5 kg of hay was used as the comparator. For access to the outdoor shower, the elephants lifted 0.81 and 0.61 times the amount they lifted for access to the hay. With the indoor shower the numbers were 0.62 and 0.68, respectively. The usage of the outdoor shower was rather low, whereas one elephant used the indoor shower to a large extent. All this combined indicates that a shower might be a meaningful EE for some elephants, but not all. Also playback of elephant calls and a two-way acoustic internet link to conspecifics at another zoo were offered to the elephants, but without measuring the maximum price paid. When the elephants were kept together, they responded vocally to the playback calls. A pilot study of the acoustic link showed that the elephants responded with excitement and by vocalizing.
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Last updated: 06/01/08