Behaviour 2019
Linking Personality Traits to Crop Raiding Behavior In Semi-captive Myanmar Elephants
Sateesh Venkatesh1,2, Shifra Goldenberg2, Peter Leimgruber 2, Joshua M. Plotnik1. 1Animal Behavior and Conservation Program, Department of Psychology, Hunter College, New York, NY, United States; 2Conservation Ecology Center, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Front Royal, VA, United States

Understanding animal behavior has become increasingly relevant in influencing conservation outcomes, but the use of animal behavior studies that take into account individual differences is still uncommon in conservation practice. This study takes a novel approach to investigating human-elephant conflict (HEC) by gaining a deeper understanding of inter-individual differences in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). The study population consists of 30 semi-wild elephants in Myanmar studied in captivity during daytime experiments, and tracked in wild settings at night. We compare elephant personality tests between elephants to investigate whether measurable personality traits are linked to crop-raiding. In order to assess personality, we used a baited puzzle tube. Elephants in this study showed variation in how they reacted to a novel object, both in the time it took to retrieve their reward, and in the number of rewards they were able to acquire. This study represents a new look at how conservation strategies may benefit from a holistic understanding of a species that includes behavioral variation between individuals.