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Do Elephants Leave the Herd?

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Elephants are notorious for their community bond and tight-knit behavior, but not all elephants remain in the herd for life. Gender dictates much of elephant herd behavior for Asian and African elephants, with female elephants remaining with their herd and male elephants striking out on their own.

Female Elephants

Female elephants remain with the herd they were born into from birth until death. Elephant herds have large home ranges; members will travel 30 to 50 miles per day in search of food and water. The herds are matriarchal, with older female members passing on social and survival skills to the younger members of the herd.

Male Elephants

Male elephants spend their formative years with the herd, but leave around age 13 to 14 -- when puberty sets in. The male elephant will either roam the savannah alone or team up with other males in a loose bachelor herd. Around the age of 30, males will begin breeding with females and will temporarily rejoin herds when looking for a mate.

Mating Behavior

Female elephants are only in heat for 48 hours, so competition for mating can be fierce. The largest and oldest elephant bulls tend to win mating fights, leaving younger ones to roam and grow in size. While a male elephant may temporarily rejoin a herd during the mating period, he will strike out on his own after approximately a two-week period.

Herd Size

At the core, every herd has its matriarchal leader -- the oldest female -- and a clan of nine to 11 elephants, typically the matriarch's daughters. If a herd gets too large, females will break off to form a new herd upon the prompting of the matriarch. This may happen when resources in the herd's area become scarce.