When Is An Elephant Full Grown ?
Elephants mature around the age of eleven to fifteen years. The females after reaching maturity at eleven years continue staying with the herd. However, males take a little longer to mature around twelve to fifteen years and are expelled out of the maternal group soon after. Though sexually matured, the male only starts breeding after moving up their social hierarchy around mid or even after late twenties. Mature males during their peak and heightened sexual annual period produce secretions that continuously dribble in a stream of strong smelling urine from the inflamed temporal glands and make mating calls to attract the females to them.
Musth is a unique condition seen in elephants during summers with no scientific explanation as to why it occurs. It is generally seen in sexually mature males between the age group of 20 to 50 years and lasts from two to three weeks and sometimes may go on till four months. Musth is not entirely a sexual condition as elephants have been found mating when not in musth period as well. However, the possibility of females getting attracted to elephants is musth is much higher.
The males experiencing musth are known to be aggressive, highly agitated and dangerous to an extent of killing humans as well as other elephants. In course of this period a free flowing oily discharge or secretion with a strong smell flows down from the gland above the eyes onto the elephant’s face dribbling into its mouth. The taste of this discharge is what drives the elephant wild.
Domesticated elephant during these periods are kept chained and offered food from a distance till musth subsides. 45 to 50 years onwards, musth gradually starts subsiding and finally disappears altogether. Rarely, but sometimes, musth has been noted in female elephants also. After forty the physical powers begin to diminish and by fifty-five, old age begins setting it. Very few elephants make it to the age of seventy.
Though the cows mature sexually in their early teens, they reproduce only at sixteen years. The gestation period can be anywhere from between eighteen to twenty two months. Another elephant acting as an auntie is chosen by the mother from the herd to help her during birth and with rearing of the offspring. A cow bears up to four children in her lifetime and the occurrence of twins is rare.
The young ones are suckled till they are 4 years old though six months onwards; they develop a taste for solid food.
Elephants live as a family. Wild herds are made up of cows and their young ones. The herd is headed by a matriarch or the unquestionable leader. All the members of the herd follow her everywhere she goes. Mature young males are thrown out of the group and form smaller male groups with around ten members. On reaching mid-twenties mature males move around in pairs or in groups of three. A hierarchy is maintained and the dominant male adult bull reserves the prime rights for mating.
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