“Observations were conducted on a herd of seven captive African elephants (Loxodonta africana) at Knysna Elephant Park (KEP), Western Cape, South Africa.
KEP was home to 18 elephants when the study was conducted; however, only seven of them make up the herd that interacts with tourists, hereafter referred to as Sally’s herd (see Table 1 for a full herd profile). Sally’s herd is composed of five females and two males ranging in age from 7 to 25 years old.
The elephants come from a variety of backgrounds—two of the elephants, Shungu and Thandi, were born at KEP, and the other five are rescued orphans. Only two of the elephants are related: Nandi and daughter Thandi.
Despite their individual past circumstances, the members of Sally’s herd still appear to function in a relatively similar fashion to herds in the wild, with a matriarch and clear hierarchical order among the elephants that affects group decision-making. The elephants in the herd maintain strong intraspecific relationships; therefore, they have no evident need to fill any void left by lack of social contact with other elephants. However, even the most social elephants in the herd choose to interact with humans, making these human–elephant interactions especially interesting.”