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The Social Organization of a Small Captive Group of Eland, Oryx and Roan Antelope With an Analysis of Personality Profiles

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The social organisation of a captive herd of 13 eland, 1 adult male roan antelope, and one adult male cape oryx was studied at a limited food resource in a confined area. The importance of a "dominance hierarchy" in controlling relationships between individuals was assessed by comparing rank orders for the performance and receipt of threats and, separately, withdrawals. Correlations between the individual rankings for "threats" and "withdrawn from" was good (p<0.01). This suggests that a "dominance hierarchy" had been established in this group, and it could be assessed by scoring aggression (threats) or avoidance (withdrawals). However, the high number of threats (13.8 per hour) indicates that the dominance hierarchy was not particularly rigid. Other than at the food, there were few interactions related to conflict. The importance of measuring other forms of interaction such as grooming, interest in other animals and displaying to other animals in order to understand group organisation is emphasised. A description of the social organisation of the group in terms of roles is considered. The complexity of relationships between individuals as shown by all these behaviours suggests that neither "dominance" hierarchy, nor roles are adequated for understanding the organisation of the group. A further measure, which is the extent to which individuals are involved in interaction with others (i.e. socially involved) is proposed, and it is found that sub-adults are consistently low on this score, whereas adults vary. Another measure of individual behaviour proposed is the extent to which the animal is a performer or receiver of the various behaviours. These measures are open to criticism, (as are concepts such as "dominance hierarchy" and "roles") on the basis of being unsophisticated blanket terms and therefore mis-leading since they tell little about individual relationships. As a result of the difference between individuals in the various interactions scored, it is clear that the only way to understand the group structure in detail is to draw up personality profiles. This was done using the six types of interactions that were measured. The profiles of the individuals represented in this way confirm their uniqueness even within one age or sex class. Similarities in related animals in several parameters is evident however.

Affiliations: 1: (Ethology and Neurophysiology Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, U.K


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