Adolescence 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.