A recent study on elephants in zoos found out something that many of us probably already suspected... these captive animals are at risk of depression and unhappy if kept alone or in small groups.
The important point made by the author Paul Rees is that life in small groups is unnatural for herd animals.
In their ‘normal’ life elephants are used to having many contacts with members of their own species, and this is crucial for the animals to develop normal behaviour patterns and friendships.
If they are forced to stay with just a few other individuals they cannot learn important socials skills such as finding a mate or greeting rituals, and many of them begin showing abnormal behaviour that suggests depression.
This study represents another reason to re-consider the ethical implications of keeping animals in captivity for human amusement.
Photo from: http://animalphotos.info
For more information:
Rees P.A. 2009. The sizes of elephant groups in zoos: implications for elephant welfare. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 12 (1):44-60. (Abstract only)