Mother’s Day is around the corner. What better way to celebrate than honoring one of the strongest mothers in the wild - elephants!
Female elephants are some of the few animal mothers that take care of their young off-spring and stay with them all of their life.
In celebration of Mother’s Day, we want to share some elephant mother and baby facts to help raise awareness about the importance of elephant conservation.
When do elephants take an interest in becoming mothers?
From a very young age, female elephants (cows) are introduced to motherhood. Elephants live in herds that are made up of females. As teenagers, female elephants take an interest in taking care of the calves in their herd. In return, it helps them learn how to take care of the young elephants and prepares them for when they have babies of their own.
An elephant’s pregnancy
Once a female elephant (cow) reaches maturity and finds a suitable bull elephant to mate, she can become pregnant. Elephant pregnancies are the longest in mammals. Their gestation period lasts between 640 to 660 days, which is equivalent to 94 weeks.
They typically only have one offspring at a time, but there are records of them having twins. Elephants can start to become mother’s around the age of 12-16 years old and can have up to 12 offspring in a lifetime.
The role of an elephant mother
Not only do female elephants carry their offspring for almost two years of their life, but they teach their offspring. One of the elephant mother and baby facts you might not know is that elephant moms teach calves how to stand up, find food, swim, recognize dangers and so much more. Female elephants are some of the few animals in the wild that protect, nurture and teach their young ones.
When an elephant calf is born, it depends heavily on its mother to survive. The calf gets its milk that it needs to survive from its mother until they reach the age of two years old. Once they hit this age, they can feed themselves independently. However, they do not wean off their mother’s milk entirely until 5 or 10 years of age.
The elephant mothers protect and teach the elephant calves from potential danger. If an elephant mother hears the baby making distressed sounds, they can rush to their sides. They protect them from potential dangers like lions and hyenas. These animals tend to attack elephant calves because of their size.
Why is it essential to protect elephants?
The role that an elephant mother plays for an elephant calf is essential! However, a calf can lose its mother due to poaching or natural causes. Poachers are known to hunt down female elephants for their enormous tusks and leave elephant calves to become orphans.
Studies have shown that baby elephants that are under the age of two die without their mother unless they are rescued. Without a mother, the baby elephant can not get the food or protection it needs to survive on its own.
Sometimes another elephant mother can offer its milk to the orphaned elephant, but this can result in her baby not getting enough nourishment. If the baby elephant does not get the nutrients it needs, it can start to get weak, fall behind the herd and possibly die.
You can take action to stop poaching by supporting a ban of the ivory trade, supporting elephant conservation and raising awareness. At For Elephants, we are helping raise awareness of the importance that elephants play in the wild. You can help support our research that helps elephant conservation efforts in South Africa and zoos across the United States. Donate now!