If you’ve seen video pictures of elephants walking, eating or playing together, you might be wondering: What’s a herd of elephants called?
Studies have shown that elephants are very emotionally intelligent animals, capable of expressing complex emotions such as happiness, love, anger, empathy, and even sadness. They are highly social and enjoy interacting with members of other species. This means that elephants rarely live alone, as they generally prefer each other.
So, what is the official name of a herd of elephants? What kind of hierarchy or structure is there in their group? Let’s take a closer look at how elephant families work and how many individuals typically live together at any one time. We’ll also explore how baby elephants grow in these groups, and how the roles of males and females differ.
Elephants: The whole family
A herd of elephants is often called a herd, or less commonly, a parade!
Most importantly, herds are family groups. Herd sizes vary widely, but their structure is always multigenerational and matriarchal. A typical elephant herd is led by a matriarch female. The matriarch is usually the oldest in the group and informally leads the group, which usually consists of most of her offspring and those offspring’s own offspring.
Elephant herds are surprisingly closely linked. From protecting each other from predators to making sure every member of the herd has access to food and water, these elephant herds are highly protective of one another and are incredibly empathetic and social. In fact, they have been known to grieve for weeks or even months whenever a beloved member of the herd dies.
Whenever the head matriarch of a group dies, another matriarch, usually the second largest in the group, takes her place. But if elephant herds are predominantly female, where do the male elephant herds live?
Do male elephants live in groups?
Male elephant elephants live in their family groups as babies. They remain close to their mothers throughout infancy and most of adolescence.
However, once they reach puberty at about 12 to 15 years old, males leave their group. They then either live and roam alone, or in small, loosely structured groups of other male bulls or bulls of about the same age.
African elephants tend to leave their original family group around 10 to 12 years of age. Asians leave around 14 to 15 years old. The only time male elephants interact with other adult females is during the female’s mating season, also known as estrus or “rut.”
Once a sexually mature male elephant mates with a female, the two separate and return to their respective groups. Or, if the male lives alone, he reverts to a solitary solitary life until the next mating season.
Male elephants often don’t play much of a role in raising young elephants. Instead, their children would stay with their mother, who would raise them in her family with the help of her sisters. Once the calves mature, the females will remain in the herd. Meanwhile, the next generation of males leaves to repeat the process.
How many elephants are there on average?
Herd sizes range from 6 to 100 elephants! Herd size depends on a variety of factors. These factors include topographical conditions, climate, and the availability of resources such as food and water. The overall success of past breeding seasons also affects herd size.
It is worth noting that Asian elephant herds are much smaller than African elephant herds. There are two main reasons for this. First, the Asian elephant’s habitat is more compact, as are other flora and fauna. But more importantly, there are far fewer Asian elephants in the wild than African elephants.
While there are about 400,000 African elephants left in the wild, Asian elephants make up only a fraction of that number. There are about 40,000 wild Asian elephants left in the wild. Fortunately, conservation efforts are slowly improving those numbers.
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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