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Image of the Day: Safety in Numbers

Male Asian elephants are forming long-term, all-male groups to forage in agricultural areas of India.

Jul 22, 2019
Chia-Yi Hou

ABOVE: Three male elephants walk towards a banana plantation in the outskirts of Bangalore, India.
FEP, NISHANT SRINIVASAIAH

Male Asian elephants are usually solitary or travel with mixed-sex groups through the forests of India, but biologists report that they are now forming long-term, all-male packs, in a study published in Scientific Reports on July 4. The researchers looked through nearly 1,500 photographs of 248 individual male elephants over a 23-month period and found that adolescent males formed large groups when they were in non-forested areas. 

Male Asian elephants sometimes put themselves at risk by foraging in agricultural areas where humans may hunt or attack them and this may be why the males are now traveling together, states the report. The photos also revealed that the adolescent males in groups looked healthier than solitary adult males.

N. Srinivasaiah et al., “All-male groups in Asian elephants: a novel, adaptive social strategy in increasingly anthropogenic landscapes of southern India,” Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-45130-1, 2019.

Chia-Yi Hou is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at chou@the-scientist.com.


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