Elephant Babies

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

   photo M. Noonan

The bond between a baby elephant and its mother can be correctly described as the closest of any animal on earth.  If it is a female baby, she will typically remain together with her mother right into her own adulthood and will likely never once be separate from her until the mother dies in old age. 

 

 

 

 

 

       photo M. Noonan

Male baby elephants also stay similarly close to their mothers when they are young.  But in their case, this bond is not for a lifetime.  When a adolescent male reaches puberty around the age of 12 he gets too rowdy for the others to tolerate.  He repeatedly feels an uncontrollable urge to wrestle and fight with other elephants, or to court them sexually.  And whenever this happens, his mother and grandmother clearly become irritated with him and escort him to the edge of the group to get him to stop.  This goes on month after month throughout his puberty until the disapproval by the females becomes so intense that he is chased away altogether.  He then becomes what is known as a solitary bull elephant. 

Elephant babies typically get to their feet within a half hour after birth and are able to follow along with the herd not long after that.  Like the one splashing and chasing egrets in the picture below, they spend much of their time playing and exploring their world. 


photo M. Noonan

An elephant calf nurses with its mouth (not its trunk) just behind its mothers front legs.  It nurses very often throughout the day and it is entirely dependent on its mother for all of its nourishment for the first year of its life.  After that, it gradually begins to nibble on plants and tapers off its nursing.  Complete weaning usually occurs by the age of two or three. 


photo M. Noonan
Elephant nursing

 

CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.