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The Millennial Males

Studying sociality and decision-making of male elephants in human-dominated areas

This project will study the behaviour of male elephants in a human-dominated landscape. Particularly, how their external environment (such as habitat quality and population density) and their internal conditions (like physiology and body condition) influence their interactions with other males.

Young males usually stay with their herd until the age of ten to fifteen years. After this, they typically lead solitary lives. It is during this time that these young males sometimes travel vast distances, often through human populated areas, to find a suitable habitat for themselves.

Although mostly solitary, male elephants have been found to form all-male groups when they enter farms to feed on crops. There is still much we do not know about this societal aspect of male elephants. For instance, what factors influence the formation of these groups, do they form associations with their sibships or affiliate themselves with unrelated bulls?

Male elephants that feed on agricultural crops have been shown to be in better body condition and have the ability to come into musth, a state of heightened sexual activity, and remain in musth for longer durations of time.

Understanding the movement and decision-making patterns of elephants will help us anticipate potential areas of conflict. We aim to work with farmers in these areas to create conflict mitigation strategies that harness the behavioural adaptability of these animals. This approach also allows us to proactively address this problem and gives us time device solutions specific to each locality.