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Intensity of play behavior as a potential measure of welfare: A novel method for quantifying the integrated intensity of behavior in African elephants

, : Intensity of play behavior as a potential measure of welfare: A novel method for quantifying the integrated intensity of behavior in African elephants. Zoo Biology 34(5): 492-496

To the authors' knowledge there is currently no discrete index to measure the integrated intensity of a play bout in mammals, despite the potential for using intensity and duration of play bouts as a measure of physical activity and welfare. This study was developed to test an equation that quantified the intensity and duration of play bouts in a particularly gregarious mammal, African elephants (Loxodonta africana) housed at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, CA. To quantify these behaviors, we created a scale of intensity and a subsequent equation that produces an index value, giving each unique bout a score. A compilation of these scores provides a range of intensity of play behavior that is a representative value for that particular herd at that point in time, and thus a database to which later bouts can be compared. It can be argued that play behavior is an indicator of positive welfare, and if quantifiable, it is our belief that it can be used as an additional measure of positive welfare in zoo housed animals. Here we present the methods and technique used to calculate a standardized Integrated Play Index (IPI) that has potential for use in other socially living species that are known to exhibit play behavior.


PMID: 26251201

DOI: 10.1002/zoo.21238

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