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Environmental conditions and responses of circus elephants transported by truck and railcar during relatively high and low temperatures
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No published research exists regarding the transport of circus elephants despite evidence of stressful conditions in transported livestock. Shipments of elephants with participating circuses and private exhibitors were identified during relatively high and low temperatures to characterize the transport environment and the animals' response to transport. Ten hot and five cold weather trips with seven circuses were surveyed. During each trip, external and internal temperature, relative humidity, and solar radiation were continuously measured during both extremes. Concentrations of ammonia and carbon monoxide during transport were also determined. Body temperature from a sample of elephants for each circus or exhibitor was also measured continuously as an indication of the animal's physiological response. Blood samples were taken an hour before, immediately before, immediately after, and an hour after transport to determine plasma cortisol concentrations as an indication of psycho-physiological response. Direct and video observations were made and analyzed for the occurrence of normal and abnormal behaviors. The temperature of the transport vehicle during transport maintained temperatures with a range under 36⁰C and above 0⁰C during hot and cool weather surveys, respectively. Concentrations of ammonia or carbon monoxide were not detectable during transport. Body temperature for each elephant was maintained within a 1.5⁰C range. Increases in body temperature were observed during or after physical activity with a maximum of 37.5⁰C. Significant differences in cortisol concentrations were found between the first and second (p=0.015) and the first and third (p=0.028) sample times during one trip, though appear minimal and may reflect arousal. No other significant differences were found between sample times. Observations during transport identified that the stereotypic behavior of weaving occurred in some elephants up to 80% of the time in transport time, although animals were observed to eat and drink, among other behaviors associated with a positive environment. Due to the lack of extreme temperatures within the transport vehicle during transport, biologically insignificant fluctuations in cortisol concentrations, stable body temperature, occurrence of natural behaviors, comparatively robust overall health, and the absence of the stressors in transported livestock, transport does not appear to be inherently stressful or compromise the welfare of the surveyed elephants.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 84-93).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Toscano, Michael Jeffrey (2001). Environmental conditions and responses of circus elephants transported by truck and railcar during relatively high and low temperatures. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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