A long-term study was carried out to examine associations amongst adult male Asian elephants in the Kabini Asian elephant population, southern India. Adult males associated with one another in the absence of female groups over 10% of their time. Since elephants are polygynous and competition amongst males is expected to shape male society, hypotheses to explain associations were examined. Based on six years of field data on individually-identified elephants, it was found that old adult males (>30 years) associated preferentially with other old males, and old and young (15-30 years) adult males associated less than expected by chance. Young males did not preferentially approach old males to associate. Thus, associations seemed to be based on testing strengths among age-peers rather than primarily for social learning from old males. This difference in male associations compared to the African savannah elephant seemed to arise from a constraint on group size in Kabini.
Permuted and observed numbers of times adult males of different age classes were sighted in the A) absence and B) presence of females. Significant differences are marked with asterisks. Figure from Keerthipriya et al. 2021, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
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