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Q: Adult Elephant Behavior ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Adult Elephant Behavior
Category: Science
Asked by: iwonder-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 18 May 2002 10:45 PDT
Expires: 25 May 2002 10:45 PDT
Question ID: 16856
Is it normal for adult elephants to lie down on the ground on their
own for extended periods of time?  If so, why and for how long a
period of time?
Subject: Re: Adult Elephant Behavior
Answered By: mother-ga on 18 May 2002 13:56 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Hello, and thank you for your question.

Yes, it is normal for adult elephants in the wild to lie down on their
own - but only to sleep at night. They will sleep lying down for a
total of four hours per night, usually from 11 PM or midnight to about
3-4 AM. Resting during the hottest periods of the day is done standing
up. Only a sick elephant will lie down during the day, just as only a
sick elephant will sleep standing up at night. Some researchers have
observed that many elephants will rest standing up at night, only
lying down a couple of hours before dawn. These behaviors do not seem
to differ between the adult African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and
the adult Asian elephant (Elephas maximus).

  Adult African elephants (

  Elephant InfoStatus2 (Friends of the Asian Elephant)

  The Thai Elephant -- Symbol of Nation (

  Samburu Elephant Monitoring

This data refers to elephants in the wild, who are not in captivity or
in a working situation. Circus elephants are trained to go down into a
submissive position called "sleep" which causes the animal to lie
down, though I wouldn't consider this "on their own" as your question
states. Also, sleep deprivation and other brutal methods are used in
training elephants, further skewing the natural or normal amount of
time spent lying down. See resources below for captive elephant
behavior if you are interested in this aspect as well. Elephant sleep
behavior in modern zoos can closely mimic behavior in the wild, under
humane and animal-centric circumstances.

Additional Resources

  Research on nocturnal behaviour of African Elelephants (Loxdonta
africana) at Vienna Zoo

  Circus Facts

Search Strategy

elephant behavior "lie down"
elephant behavior  (sleep OR rest)
elephant behavior sleep circus

Hope this is what you were looking for!
-- mother-ga

Clarification of Answer by mother-ga on 18 May 2002 20:39 PDT

Thank you for your comment and the opportunity to further explore this

As I clearly stated in my answer above, I was referring solely to
elephants NOT in captivity. A "US safari park" is captivity, no matter
how large.

Why does wild vs. captivity matter?

"In the wild, elephants walk long distances--sometimes 20 miles in a
day--in search of food. But elephants in the wild will also hang
around an area where there is a ready food supply. Elephants in
captivity always have a ready food supply, and many zoos with giant
elephant yards have been dismayed to find their behemoth charges
contentedly standing around the barn all day waiting for their next
bale of hay."
  Behavioral Enrichment: Keeping Life Interesting (Los Angeles Zoo)

Thus, captive elephants will lie down more often than their wild
cousins because there is nowhere to go. Programs which encourage
walking to exercise and stimulate the elephants serve to keep their
feet healthy and thus encourage more movement, which is natural
behavior for them.  Elephants in the wild also enjoy mud bathing
several times a day as a social activity which keeps their skin
conditioned. If an elephant is bred in captivity, and used to being
forced to lie down to receive a bath from a caretaker, then the
behavior you mention would make sense - in captivity.

  Elephants in Captivity

Search strategy:
elephant wild captivity "lie down" walk
elephant wild captivity "lie down" bathe

iwonder-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars

Subject: Re: Adult Elephant Behavior
From: knowledge_seeker-ga on 18 May 2002 16:50 PDT
Well, I just asked my brother-in-law who is a veterinarian at a large
US Safari Park, and read him the reply given.  Here's his reply in
it's ummm... raw form ...

<<<Only a sick elephant will lie down during the day, just as only a
sick elephant will sleep standing up at night>>>
(Laughing) Thats a bunch of crap ... Thats wrong! My elephants lie
down during the day all the time ... often for 15-20 mins or longer to
enjoy the cool mud or get sand on themselves..."

Note: He is referring to healthy asian elephants. 

*** please consider this NO reflection on mother-ga's answer. The
sources she/he quoted were competely valid..the question was answered
correctly given the published data online...I just happen to have an
"in" ...

Subject: Re: Adult Elephant Behavior
From: johnfrommelbourne-ga on 18 May 2002 23:03 PDT
Well I thought Mother gave a very comprehensive answer that addressed
the question, but perhaps the questioner thought she could have got a
little bit more for her $20?? I would have been happy with what she
recieved however.

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