Adult Elephants Soothe Youngsters | Science and life


Elephants seem to us smart and kind, but sometimes something finds them, and they become violent and aggressive, attack cars, motorcycles and bicycles, animals, people. Employees Exeter University write to Proceedings of the Royal Society Bthat the aggressiveness of elephants – at least young ones – is noticeably weaker if older elephants are next to them.

Researchers observed elephants for three years in the Makgadikgadi National Park in Botswana. Among nearly three hundred males, there were elephants of all ages: adolescents (10–15 years old), older adolescents (16–20 years old), adults (21–25 years old) and elderly (over 26 years old). Elephants could quarrel with each other, but it is curious that adolescents more often pounced on some foreign objects and other animals (in particular, on livestock) when there were no elders nearby. At the same time, young elephants were not only more aggressive, but also more fearful, which is understandable: aggressiveness is associated with the fear of both animals and humans.

If the group of elephants included not only adolescents, but also adults and elderly males, the young elephants behaved calmer, did not smash anything and did not attack livestock. Perhaps, next to adults and old people, young people feel more protected, and perhaps there is some kind of pedagogical influence on the part of adult elephants.

In general, when they talk about the social life of elephants, they usually mean females – it has long been known that they live in communities headed by old and experienced female matriarchs. They help others to look for water and food, choose safe routes during transitions from place to place, etc. However, male elephants also unite in groups: most of the males in such groups are quite young, although there are older individuals among them. We have already written that the older the male is, the more likely it is that he will lead his companions on the savannah, showing them where to look for food and water. As you can see, adult males are important not only for the survival of the group, but also for psychological comfort.

The problem is that old elephants often fall prey to poachers because of their tusks. Left without leaders, elephant juveniles are likely to start rowing, and this is another reason to further tighten conservation measures aimed at protecting elephants and their habitats.


Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.

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