In the animal kingdom, we often have the misconception that animals do not have the same emotions as humans. People think animals do not have bonds similar to the ones that we have with our family and friends.
Researchers discovered that there are individual animals that do have these strong family bonds. They make scales or fur, but they are capable of having families similar to ours. These animals included dolphins, wolves, lions and, of course, elephants!
The role of family in elephants
Elephants live in families that are called herds. These herds typically include related adult female elephants and their offspring. The African elephant behavior in herds is very cooperative, and they move together.
The entire family makes decisions together for the safety of each other and to find the necessary resources for survival. Not only do they help each other find resources, but they also help each other with offspring care. The elder female elephants help young mothers teach their offspring.
As for adult males, they do not live with the female herds. Adolescent male elephants will leave their natal herd and learn the rules to prepare for adulthood from older male elephants. The male elephants (bulls) live alone or with a group of bachelors. They travel to find female elephants who are willing to mate.
Who is the matriarch elephant?
Now you are probably wondering if the male elephants leave who is there to lead the herd of elephants? Well, it is the matriarch. The oldest and largest female elephant is the leader of the herd. This herd includes the daughters of the matriarch and their offspring.
The matriarch plays a critical role in the life of the other female elephants. She influences the African elephant behavior and decisions, keeps them away from danger and teaches them how to care for their offspring. The matriarch needs to have wisdom, strong connections and confidence to guide the other elephants.
A herd of elephants travels with each other to find water and food. They look for guidance from the matriarch elephant to find water or food sources when there is drought. When there is a danger, the herd relies on the matriarch's wisdom and experience to find the safest solution.
As the oldest of the herd, the matriarch has more knowledge about the dangers and needs that the elephants need to know to survive in those areas. She instructs her daughters on how to care for their young. Once one of the female elephants starts to bear babies, they all assist.
When the matriarch elephant dies, her position is taken by the closest relative to her. It is typically the oldest daughter.
Family plays a crucial role in African elephant behavior and life. Poaching has become a severe problem and disrupts elephant families. Elephant herds can lose their matriarchs or mothers due to poaching and disrupt family structures and leave young elephant orphans.
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