Six facts about elephant families

The large mammals have intricate social networks

Share
Related Topics

Elephants display complex social and emotional behaviour, and are said to value their families more than most animals.

1. Females are the boss

Elephant families have a matriarchal head, meaning that an older, experienced lady elephant leads the herd. A family usually consist of a mother, her sisters, daughters their babies (calves).  Occasionally, non-related elephants join to form families. Female family units range from three to twenty five elephants.

Sometimes herds of female elephants combine with groups of bull elephants to form larger clans. Herd aggregations of 500 to 1000 elephants have been recorded around watering holes and other sources of food and water. Herd aggregation has also been documented in areas where poaching is rampant.

2. They babysit

Female elephants (cows) help each look after each other’s calves. Babysitting other female’s calves is important for elephant development; young females learn how to look after the young, and the calves are shown how it’s done. The survival rate of a calf greatly increases when more females are present and willing take care of it.

3. They bond

Elephants are known to develop strong, intimate bonds between friends and family members. There have been reports of elephants forming lifelong friendships with each other, and they even mourn the death of their loved ones. Mother elephants have been seen grieving over stillborn calves, and some elephants have even been spotted returning to, and lingering near, spots where their friends and family members died.

4. They walk in a single file

Disney wasn’t lying in The Jungle Book – elephants actually do actually walk in single file when they on the move, for instance while in search of food and water. The calves will sometimes hold on to their mother’s tails with their trunks to keep up, while other female elephants surround them to protect them from danger. 

5. Guys hang out in groups, too

Adult male elephants live a predominantly nomadic and solitary life. When a male elephant (bull) reaches puberty, around 12 to 15 years of age, he will gradually become more independent of his family until he breaks away completely, to either roam alone or find a loosely-knit group of male elephants to join.

Herds of bulls have a hierarchal structure, with the strongest and most experienced elephants leading and protecting the group. When a bull is ready to mate he will pursue an elephant family until he selects a female and she accepts his advances. Once he has mated with a cow, he’ll either return to his herd or resume his solitary existence, leaving the cow to rear the calf by herself.

6. Herds can separate

Although they tend to be close, an elephant family can split. This decision is influenced by ecological factors, such as the availability of food and water in the area, and social factors, such as how well the elephants get on, the size of the group or the death of a matriarch. As such, different herds living over vast terrain can be interrelated. These ‘bond groups’ keep in touch with each other through rumbling calls and usually stay within a mile of each other.


Click here to find out more about our Christmas Appeal to save the elephants

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Process Improvement Analyst (Testing)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Service Delivery Manager - Derivatives, Support,

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Service Delivery Manager - (Derivatives, Support...

Technical Account Manager - Java, FIX Protocol, FIX 5.0, C++

£30000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Account Manager - Java,...

WPF .NET Developer

£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: WPF Analyst Programmer NET, WPF, C#, M...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: heatwave update; duck tape and market socialism

John Rentoul
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform