P Vijayakumaran Nair
Articles written in Proceedings – Animal Sciences
Volume 93 Issue 3 April 1984 pp 225-233
This study is based on 645 hr of observations on the social behaviour of tame elephants maintained at three wildlife sanctuaries of Bandipur, Mudumalai and Anaimalai in South India. These elephants are wild captured adults, and their calves born in captivity. The observations were carried out when the elephants are left free for grazing in their natural habitat, where they often intermingle with wild herds. The adult females always stay together when there are calves present: while the adult males graze by themselves. The calves position themselves between adult females and juveniles closer to their mother. All females rush together when a calf sounds alarm. The adult females stand guard over calves lying down for rest thereby accepting considerable reduction in the amount of time devoted to feeding. The ‘allomothers’ suckle other calves when they have no calf of their own, sometimes as much as the mother herself. The acts of social communication are largely initiated by the calf touching the breast or body of an adult female with its nostril. There is much variation in the extent of communication and suckling from one allomother to another with a mother definitely preferring her own calf.