“New research challenges the assumption that bulls become redundant in elephant society after breeding.”
New evidence suggests that male elephants do have social lives, and that older males may act as leaders for younger ones.
For example, from 1992 to 1997, young orphaned male elephants that had been introduced to Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa began coming into premature musth, a temporary state of heightened aggression and sexual activity. When females rejected the adolescents’ advances, the young males took their aggression out on white rhinos, killing more than 40. Seeking a solution, researchers introduced six older male elephants to the park. The younger males’ musth subsided, and the rhino killing stopped.
“Older males perhaps control aggressive behavior in younger ones,” Ms. Allen said.
In the absence of older bulls, younger ones would probably still be able to navigate a habitat by using well-worn paths to water… But older animals could be crucial to more critical knowledge, such as where to find water during a prolonged drought, or how to evade poachers.
(Rachel Nuwer, “Old Male Elephants: Don’t Count Them Out,” NYTimes, 9-4-20)
(c) 2020 JMN