Chronic stress in elephants can affect long-term behavior

February 22, 2012

Stress is known to lead to short-term escape behavior, and new research on elephants in South Africa shows that it can also cause long-term escape behavior, affecting the extent that elephants use their habitat. The work is published Feb. 22 in the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers, led by David Jachowski of the University of Missouri, measured levels of FGM (fecal glucocorticoid metabolite), a proxy of , and land use patterns for three different elephant populations, and found that higher FGM was associated with 20-43% lower land usage. These results suggest that chronic high stress leads to "refuge behavior," with the animals altering their space use and preferences in response to stress.

" and refuge behavior by elephants could be linked to multiple elephant management problems, ranging from habitat destruction to aggression towards and killing of humans", says Dr. Jachowski.

Wildlife translocation or reintroduction projects should consider these effects in their planning, the authors write.

Explore further: Study: Elephants might seek revenge

More information: Jachowski DS, Slotow R, Millspaugh JJ (2012) Physiological Stress and Refuge Behavior by African Elephants. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31818. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031818

Related Stories

Study: Elephants might seek revenge

February 16, 2006

An increasing number of incidents involving African elephants attacking humans is leading some scientists to believe the animals may be seeking revenge.

Elephants avoid costly mountaineering

July 24, 2006

Using global-positioning system data corresponding to the movements of elephants across the African savannah, researchers have found that elephants exhibit strong tendencies to avoid significantly sloped terrain, and that ...

Roads bring death and fear to forest elephants

October 28, 2008

Why did the elephant cross the road? It didn't according to a new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Save the Elephants that says endangered forest elephants are avoiding roadways at all costs. The authors ...

Panel: India must secure elephant reserves

September 1, 2010

(AP) -- India should protect its elephant population by securing its wildlife reserves, curbing poaching and restricting development in the corridors they use to travel between forested areas, a panel recommended.

Elephant numbers halved

June 28, 2011

( -- Half the elephants from West and Central African savannahs have vanished in the past 40 years, scientists report in PLoS One.

Recommended for you


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.