The relationship between social behaviour and habitat familiarity in African elephants (Loxodonta africana)

Noa Pinter-Wollman, Lynne A. Isbell, Lynette A Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Social associations with conspecifics can expedite animals' acclimation to novel environments. However, the benefits gained from sociality may change as the habitat becomes familiar. Furthermore, the particular individuals with whom animals associate upon arrival at a new place, familiar conspecifics or knowledgeable unfamiliar residents, may influence the type of information they acquire about their new home. To examine animals' social dynamics in novel habitats, we studied the social behaviour of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) translocated into a novel environment. We found that the translocated elephants' association with conspecifics decreased over time supporting our hypothesis that sociality provides added benefits in novel environments. In addition, we found a positive correlation between body condition and social association, suggesting that elephants gain direct benefits from sociality. Furthermore, the translocated elephants associated significantly less than expected with the local residents and more than expected with familiar, but not necessarily genetically related, translocated elephants. The social segregation between the translocated and resident elephants declined over time, suggesting that elephants can integrate into an existing social setting. Knowledge of the relationship between sociality and habitat familiarity is highly important in our constantly changing world to both conservation practice and our understanding of animals' behaviour in novel environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1009-1014
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1659
StatePublished - Mar 22 2009


  • African elephant
  • Association
  • Conservation
  • Novel environment
  • Social behaviour
  • Translocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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