Journal of Ethology

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 161–168 | Cite as

Suckling behavior of eland antelopes (Taurotragus spp.) under semi-captive and farm conditions

  • Pavla Hejcmanová
  • Pavla Vymyslická
  • Karolína Koláčková
  • Markéta Antonínová
  • Barbora Havlíková
  • Michaela Stejskalová
  • Richard Policht
  • Michal Hejcman


Mother–offspring interactions soon after parturition play a key role in the survival of mammals. We investigated the suckling behavior of semi-captive Western Derby eland (Taurotragus derbianus derbianus) in a 60-ha enclosure covered by dense savanna vegetation in Senegal and farmed Common eland (T. oryx) on an open 2-ha pasture in the Czech Republic. We hypothesized that the basic pattern of suckling bout duration and mother–offspring interactions would be similar between species, but would vary in response to the environmental conditions and breeding system. During three calving periods, we observed the suckling of 27 and 23 calves of Derby and Common elands, respectively, between the ages of 1–5 months, and the interactions between mother and calf before and during suckling. Suckling bout duration increased with the age of the calves for both elands. However, in Derby elands we recorded longer suckling bouts in male than female calves and shorter suckling bouts in primiparous mothers than multiparous ones; no differences were found in farmed Common elands. The animals’ active approach to mother–offspring contact, for example naso–anal contact, and initiation and termination of suckling, resulted in longer suckling bouts in Derby elands. The results suggest that Derby elands that range over a large enclosure with dense vegetation cover adjust their maternal behavior in compliance with potential predator risk, facing a trade-off between nursing and vigilant behavior in the wild. The suckling behavior of farmed elands, on the other hand, reflects the conditions of captivity without predators and with the small available area enabling permanent visual contact of animals.


Taurotragus spp. Antelope Mother–offspring interaction Maternal care Breeding management Trade-off 



We are highly indebted to the Society for the Protection of Environment and Fauna in Senegal, namely to director managers Georges Rezk and Christian Dering and their staff of the Western Derby eland conservation programme. We are also grateful to Radim Kotrba for his incentive comments and professional management of Common eland breeding management at the University Farm Lány. We are grateful to Nada Al Hakimová and Hana Zemanová to their assistance with data collection. The study was supported by Grant Agency of Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the grant number IAA 6023404.


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Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pavla Hejcmanová
    • 1
  • Pavla Vymyslická
    • 4
  • Karolína Koláčková
    • 2
  • Markéta Antonínová
    • 3
  • Barbora Havlíková
    • 2
  • Michaela Stejskalová
    • 2
  • Richard Policht
    • 2
  • Michal Hejcman
    • 4
  1. 1.Faculty of Forestry and Wood SciencesCzech University of Life SciencesPrague 6-SuchdolCzech Republic
  2. 2.Institute of Tropics and SubtropicsCzech University of Life SciencesPrague 6-SuchdolCzech Republic
  3. 3.African Parks NetworkGaramba NPDemocratic Republic of Congo
  4. 4.Faculty of Environmental SciencesCzech University of Life SciencesPrague 6-SuchdolCzech Republic

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