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Collective behaviour of wild Asian elephants in risky situations: how do social groups cross roads?

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Among group-living animals, some members may derive benefit by following the decisions of other members. Free-ranging wild Asian elephants in Mudumalai National Park, southern India, must often cross roads and can be disturbed by vehicles. We assessed if measures of road and traffic characteristics serve as indicators of risk, and compared behaviours of different age classes during road-crossing events. More individuals displayed excitable behaviour on wider roads. A larger number of adults entered the road first, which is considered the most dangerous position, compared with immature elephants. Immature individuals tended to move ahead of others on the road, suggesting that it is more important for immature individuals to follow adults at the beginning of a crossing than to follow along for the entire crossing. These findings may suggest that less experienced group members derive benefit by following the decisions of experienced ones under risky situations.

Affiliations: 1: aWildlife Research Center of Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan ; 2: bCentre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India

*Corresponding author’s e-mail address:
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