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heytherecatlady6 karma

Dr. Joyce is a she and it's not anecdotal. We're not discrediting her, but she did leave out a lot of info in this response and it's pretty misleading.

To mirror your point, by ignoring these facts she's dismissing the dozens of accredited zoos with stellar elephant exhibits and care teams, including behavioral research that helps us figure out what elephants need and conservation efforts that fund researchers like Dr. Joyce. It's all connected, so it's just a shame she didn't distinguish her opinion a little better. Just trying to provide the complete picture and all of the information.

heytherecatlady5 karma

They could be, but not all swayers. For example, take an elephant who grew up chained with no enrichment so he started to sway to pass the time and relieve his stress. If he is retired to a zoo with ample space, other elephants, and elephant enrichment, he may still sway no matter the conditions. Unfortunately stereotypic behaviors are like a bad habit you can't shake, so you can't always judge a facility simply because they have a swayer.

Alternatively, animals show anticipatory behaviors and those are not even close to detrimental stereotypic behaviors. If the elephant is about to be let into a new space like a yard or barn, they may sway near the door just like your dog jumping at the door to go in or outside. It may also be feeding time. Elephants get anxious for food just like any other animal.

There are certainly places that shouldn't have elephants, or any animal really. But we can't knock all elephant facilities just because of a few bad ones.

heytherecatlady5 karma

Hi Milan, thanks for doing this AMA. What is your science background and do you enjoy following along with research for treatments/cures for MD? Why or why not?

I started working at a contract research organization last year and my first project was with a big company on a possible gene therapy treatment for MD using adeno-associated viral vectors. We do research on animal models and by the time research gets to our facility, it's really onto something. As a primatologist and animal lover, I took this job to make a positive impact on the lives and well-being of laboratory primates without realizing how much the people-aspect would affect me too. My first time researching DMD was in writing the IACUC protocol for this recent study, and it's so inspiring reading through your responses and see your story. Thanks again for doing this.

heytherecatlady3 karma

Her reply also ignores the fact that the swaying observed may be in anticipation of food or getting to go to another part of their yard/barn soon. Just like your dog jumping up and down or dancing or doing circles at feeding time or when he wants to come inside/go outside.

Another explanation for truly stereotypic swaying is that it developed somewhere else in response to poorer conditions, but it has turned into a bad habit that won't go away, even when living in excellent conditions.

I was disappointed an elephant expert did not make these alternatives clear and instead made a big blanket statement that ignores other factors.

heytherecatlady3 karma

It could've very well been feeding/shifting time if there were multiple animals swaying. As for a loss of a friend, that could definitely cause some stress-induced behavior, just like with humans. Unfortunately there's nothing anoyone can do to help with grief. But if it makes you feel better, zoos always let the really intelligent animals like apes and elephants say goodbye to a deceased group member. They know what death is, so that's really important for them.