Life Cycles

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Adolescent Elephant
Life Cycles

Did you know...

  • Basic herd structures are formed during this time. This includes a slow distancing of younger bulls by their spending more time outside of the family group.
  • Males over time form bachelor herds, while females remain within matriarchal herds. These males will continue to establish their place within particular groups for the rest of their lives.
  • Similar to humans, the average age in which elephants become sexually mature is reached between the ages of  eight and thirteen

Two Duelling ElephantsAdolescence in the elephant is the time when weaning has stopped until about the age of seventeen. It denotes the period in which final growth and maturation have gone through their greatest changes.  Basic herd structures are formed during this time in the life cycle. Another key feature of the adolescent years is the sexual maturity that is reached between the ages of eight and thirteen.  This sexual awakening will allow the elephant to breed until the age of fifty. For the male this will mean the onset of musth between fifteen to eighteen years of age; once begun this typically occurs once every year in healthy elephants. The period of musth tends to last around three months, which does not take into account the onset and latter stages.

The male elephant encounters the most dramatic change in this life cycle.  During adolescence the male will begin to separate from the matriarchal herd and begin to join male herds, sometimes known as bachelor herds.  This usually happens at maturity, usually at thirteen years of age.  Males tend to form herds that travel over greater distances than females.  Females stay with the herd until death.  The male herds join the female elephants when they are in estrous.

For the female elephants, the adolescent years bring about changes that nurture maternal instincts.  The females begin to take keen interest in new-born elephants, allowing for the social contact that will become necessary when they have new-borns of their own.

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