Body Condition Scores (BCS) in European zoo elephants' (Loxodonta africana and Elephas maximus) lifetimes – a longitudinal analysis

  • Christian Schiffmann University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Marcus Clauss


In further improving zoo elephant welfare, the diet and feeding regime are key factors. Together with the encouragement of physical activity, they may support the management and prevention of overweight and obesity, which are considered a common concern in zoo elephants. Besides weight monitoring, visual body condition scoring (BCS) has proven a practical tool for the assessment of (zoo) elephants' physical condition. From the individual management as well as the medical perspective, documentation of an elephant´s BCS development over time might be much more informative than a population-wide cross-sectional analysis. We present a compilation of comprehensive data over zoo elephants´ lifetimes regarding BCS and influencing factors such as reproductive activity, physical disorders, advanced age, stressful situations and diet adaptations. Our study of the European zoo elephant population describes the reflection of various life circumstances and management adaptations in the BCS of individual elephants, and changes of population-wide BCS over time. The establishment of an online archive to build up a reliable, individual-based data basis with minimal additional workload for elephant-keeping facilities is proposed.