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Many environmental factors effect the behaviors of African elephants, Loxodonta africana, such as, health, drought, and dominance. The purpose of this research was to observe play behaviors within the different age classes (calf, juvenile, and adult) of wild elephants during recent drought conditions in Amboseli National Park, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and Samburu National Reserve in Kenya. Scan sampling every 15 minutes was used to record play behavior. The results from this study indicated that there are differences in the types of play behavior among the age classes. Adults displayed the most play frequencies for environmental, alone locomotion, and tactile play. Calves exhibited the most play frequencies for object and calm play. Calves were also the only age class to display nursing attempts, with juveniles displaying zero attempts. Research was conducted at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an elephant orphanage, as a comparison to the wild data. The findings indicated similarities between wild and captive data. Similar to the results in the wild, juveniles had the highest play frequencies for environmental play. Calves also had similar behavior in the orphanage and in the wild, where the highest play frequencies were object and calm play. Observing play behavior across the different age classes can be beneficial in order to understand the impact play behavior has on social development.

Student Author Biography

Emily Palmer is intrigued in the study of animal behavior and has researched play behavior in wild African elephants (Loxodonta africana) in Kenya, Africa. She is receiving her B.S. from Randolph-Macon College with a major in Biology and minor in Psychology. After undergraduate education, she will attend nursing school to receive her B.S.N. Her studies and interests are focused around animal and human behavior, as she enjoys learning more about the functions of the brain and the purpose of behavior: both human and animal.

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