EleFact Friday: The Importance of Older Males

For last week’s EleFact, we talked about the role of grandmothers in the calf rearing process. This week, we’re going to look at the role of older males in an all-male group – a category of elephant that trophy hunters often focus on because they are deemed redundant for breeding purposes. A recent study suggests that not only are older males not redundant, but they are in fact crucial to the survival of other males in their bachelor groups. 

Researchers have found that the oldest bulls in bachelor herds are those most likely to lead in situations where the elephants are traveling, helping younger males learn where to find food and water. Juvenile male elephants live with their mothers in matriarchal herds until the ages of 10-20, when they leave their biological mothers, spending time with other males. This study found that bull group leaders, usually seen at the forefront of the group of male elephants, were more likely to be older, more experienced individuals. Prior studies have also suggested that older bulls also sire the most offspring, helping to increase the numbers in an already endangered population.

Further research should be done to determine the multiple ways that younger males learn from experienced older males – who are unfortunately the most sought after by trophy hunters due to their tendency to have large tusks. But the details of male elephant societies are often overlooked when unfortunate decisions are made to allow for trophy hunting or enforcement of poaching laws. The importance of older bulls in fraternal societies needs more attention as studies on elephant elders continue.

To read more about this particular study, click here:

Photo of Rana, Maia, and Guillermina eating hay


  1. REPLY
    Zoi says

    The wisdom of Mother Nature. 💓

  2. REPLY
    Pamela Hall says

    So tragic that the most valuable are at most risk. How much our society could learn from these amazing creatures.

  3. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Wow–I never knew any of this stuff! So interesting!! Thank you!

  4. REPLY
    Carey says

    Yes I agree more research should be done, I loved Elephant Don, The Politics of the Pachyderm Posse by Caitlin O’Connell, we need a book like that about Asian males. Thanks for this, in this day and age it’s tragic there’s such a thing as Trophy hunting of an endangered species -strong research needed to protect these males!

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