This is the family structure of elephants and what their roles are. 

Updated: The social structure of elephants

Elephants and humans have more in common than meets the eye. Both have complex social lives and live in family structures. However, the families of elephants do have different family structures.

Our African elephants research team wants to share some information about the family structure of elephants and what their roles are. 

What is an elephant family called?

Elephants have a special name for their families. What is an elephant family called? They are called herds. These herds are made up of the matriarch elephants, her daughters and their offspring. The leader of the herd is the matriarch elephant. 

The number of elephants in these herds depends on the different types of elephants. For example, the herd of African Savannah elephants is typically 20 to 70 elephants. On the other hand, African forest elephants and Asia elephants live in smaller herds. 

The social structure of elephant 

Matriarch elephant 

The leader of an elephant herd is referred to as the matriarch elephant. This elephant is normally the oldest and largest female elephant of the herd. The matriarch elephant is one who leads the other female elephants. 

Since she is the oldest, she has the most experience when dealing with crises. The matriarch elephant knows how to avoid danger. Her wisdom helps guide the herd towards food and water. 

Female elephants 

Adult female elephants are referred to as cows. These elephants live their whole lives in their mother’s herd. However, there have been instances where they leave, but it is really rare. In herds, it is the role of the female elephant to take care of the young. 

From the time they are teens, female elephants are taught how to take care of the young. Their mothers and aunts are the ones who teach them how to care for baby elephants. This helps them prepare for when they have offspring on their own. 

Baby elephants 

Baby elephants are referred to as calves. These elephants live with their mother in herds and heavily depend on their mothers. When elephants are born, they have very few survival skills and are blind. 

Baby elephants rely on their mothers for nourishment, hygiene and survival. In general, elephants do not have predators, but lions, tigers and hyenas may attack newborn elephants. If an elephant loses its mother, it runs the risk of not surviving. 

Male elephants 

Male elephants are referred to as bulls. These elephants live their early years in their mother’s herd. Bull elephants live in the herd until the age of 12 to 15 years. Where do the male elephants go?

These elephants go live in smaller groups of other male elephants. In these small groups, the male elephants (bulls) learn how to interact with other male elephants and mating etiquettes. 

Adult male elephants travel from one mate to another. This is essential for elephants because it helps keep the gene pool varied

Support our African elephants research! 

Although we know a lot about elephants, there is still a lot we need to learn. We conduct research on how to improve the infertility rates of zoo elephants and improve their living conditions. 

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