Interactions in elephants

The development of behavior among juveniles can be considered in both the nonsocial and the social contexts. The ontogeny of various elements of behavior, such as suckling, locomotion, feeding, drinking, grooming, and solitary play, can be considered essentially nonsocial, while some of these and other behaviors involving contact with other individuals in the group are also components of sociality. Behavioral development is highly species specific, especially among elephants, which differ in several crucial ways from other mammals. For instance, the ontogeny of feeding behavior in young elephants would involve elements relating to use of the trunk and hence is different from that of other herbivores. Outside zoos, there have been surprisingly few studies of behavioral development in elephants. My former colleague Vijayakumaran Nair carried out one of the earliest studies of the ontogeny of behavior among calves in free-ranging groups of tame Asian elephants at Bandipur in southern India. The only observations from a wild situation are those of Cynthia Moss and Phyllis Lee on African elephants at Amboseli in Kenya.

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