|Male elephants socialising along the Boteti River. Credit: Connie Allen.|
Older male elephants may have important roles to play as experienced leaders to younger males when navigating unknown or risky environments, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.
In long-lived species, such as elephants and whales, older individuals often respond more appropriately to complex, changing environments, which may benefit younger group members. However, research in this area has tended to focus on females.
Connie Allen and colleagues investigated grouping behaviour and patterns of leadership in 1,264 male African savannah elephants travelling on elephant pathways to and from the Boteti River in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park (MPNP), Botswana.
|Male African elephants congregate along hotspots of social activity |
on the Boteti River. Credit: Connie Allen.
Old males being considered reproductively redundant is commonly used as an argument to support the legal trophy hunting of old males, according to the authors who suggest that such selective harvesting of older males could disrupt the wider bull society and the inter-generational flow of accumulated ecological knowledge.