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Elephants are Playful and Gregarious

The African Elephant living at peace in their natural African habitat are very relaxed. Elephants are playful and gregarious by nature.

Yesterday we posted another interesting video of Elephants on Instagram that piqued the interest of some of our loyal followers. A question was asked by our friend Kim regarding the relationship between the Elephants, and their communication. There is such a vast amount of very interesting information to share about these beautiful animals. I decided to devote this blog post to these beautiful creatures. Elephants all have distinctly different and individual characters and traits. Elephants are playful and gregarious by nature, especially when they get the opportunity to play in the water.

Elephant relationships

The Elephant “herd” as it is often loosely described, is usually a family group. The family group is led by the matriarch female. The rest of the group is made up of sisters and their offspring.

This is where we can really see that Elephants are playful and gregarious. There is a very close bond between the members of the group. The adults will participate in playful activities with each other especially when they get to swim or wallow in the mud. The youngsters are just like our human children. They take every opportunity possible to play with each other.

Growing up

The young Elephant grows up and learns about life in much the same time-frame as our human children. Here we must exclude the “modern” tendency in some areas for human “children”. Many still live with their parents through their 20’s and even deep into their 30’s.

Game viewing by boat on the Chobe River.
Up close with the Elephant.

A baby Elephant, or toddler, is fed and cared for by the mother but is protected and guided by the whole group. The young African Elephant reaches sexual maturity between the ages of 10 and 12 years old. The Asian Elephant only reaches sexual maturity at around 15 years old. The juvenile females will then stay with the family group expanding the numbers.

The teenage male Elephant is, however, pushed out of the family group at this time. This is nature’s way of ensuring that there is no chance of inbreeding between brothers, sisters and cousins. The juvenile male will then join up with a bachelor herd of Elephant bulls. The bachelor group will include old bulls and mature bulls, down to the new teenager that has just joined the group.

The mature Elephant bulls usually move around in their bachelor groups most of the time. The bulls will mingle with different groups of females to see if any of the females are in oestrous and ready to mate. This often happens at the watering hole when the females come down to drink water. They may stay with the group of females for a short time before re-joining their “brothers” again.

Behaviour and discipline

The juveniles, or teenagers, are still being instructed and disciplined by the mature Elephants in the group. It is the matriarch and her sisters who teach the young females. The old and mature bulls do the same for the young males. This “schooling” usually lasts till they are around 20 years old. This part of the Elephant’s learning curve. This was not fully understood by the conservationists responsible for the animals in wildlife reserves in the 1970’s and earlier.

Relocations of Elephant

From the 1970’s several Elephant relocations were being done around Southern Africa. Such as introducing virile young Elephant to the new Pilanesberg Game Reserve in South Africa which was established in 1979. The young Elephants, all in their prime, were captured in the big reserves such as Kruger National Park and relocated to Pilanesberg. All of these Elephants were all in their late teens and carefully selected. They were to form a new gene pool in this new reserve. The rangers soon observed some pretty aggressive behaviour patterns towards other species such as Rhino manifesting with these Elephants. No senior Elephants were relocated to guide and discipline them. The bad habits were soon manifested. This only changed once older and mature Elephants were introduced to the reserve to help restore order amongst the Elephant group.

A young African Elephant giving us a warning charge.
The precocious teenager giving us a “warning” charge.

Similarities with humans

Do you notice the similarity between Elephant and Human development through our teen years? Sometimes it is like looking in a mirror! In my next blog post, I will expand further on Elephant Communication, Reproduction, other unique qualities, and characteristics of our special Pachyderms, the beautiful African Elephant. Stay tuned and join us on Safari for your own unique experience!

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