Elephants are dedicated and caring mothers to their calves and provide emotional and physical support for three to five years, and may only wean in their tenth year of life or until a sibling is born. Mothers and daughters remain together for their entire lives. Family groups consist of an older matriarch, her daughters and their calves. Elephant groups range from 6 to over 20 individuals. Each female in the group has amazing motherly instincts and will assist with all the births within the group and care for each other’s young. There are many eyewitness accounts of the entire herd gathering around a new-born calf to welcome it into the world. Within minutes of a birth, the mother and other females trumpet and rumble, and release temporal secretions down the sides of their faces. Babysitting is a very important part of a young female elephant’s development as it prepares her for when she becomes a mother. Elephants are capable of forming very strong bonds with their family members and even ‘friends’ from inter-related groups in the area. These relationships start at the core of the herd with the mother and calf and radiate outwards to other individuals as they get older.
Other interesting facts:
- Mothers will select several babysitters to care for her calf so that she has enough time to consume enough food to produce sufficient milk for it.
- Elephants have been known to induce labour by self-medicating with certain plants.
- Baby elephants are initially blind and some take to sucking their trunk for comfort in the same way that humans suck their thumbs.
- Mothers allocate care and interact differently depending on if the calf is a male or a female
- After a baby elephant is born the mother will take care of her calf by taking it to the watering holes & spraying water over him & scrubbing him with her tusks. The bond between a calf and mother can last for up to 50 years before it might leave the mother and venture off on its own.