Reproduction and Musth in natural African Elephant populations:

Male African Elephants usually do not breed until they are 30 years old or older, and able to compete with other adult bulls. Adult bulls do not seem to become permanently attached to any particular family group, but are incredibly social and do seek out companionship.


Usually one to several adult bulls (depending on the size of the herd) will be associated with a herd, but the bulls do not become part of a particular herd: they move from herd to herd seeking females in oestrus.

Adult bull elephants go through musth, a specific reproductive condition, about once a year, and this state may last for only a few days, or for three months or longer. The musth glands, or temporal glands, swell and secrete a liquid: this can often be seen as a thick secretion running down the side of the elephants face. There is an increase in the male sex hormones during this time and the bull may become aggressive and unpredictable; the search for a mate is also intensified.


Musth bulls often issue a specific low rumble, which is often answered by a female calling back. Older bulls may actually cause suppression of musth in younger bulls. There is evidence to suggest that musth is a reliable indicator of good condition, as African elephant bulls in poor condition do not come into musth, and wounded bulls may drop out of musth.

Cows usually begin reproducing between the ages of ten and twelve. They produce a single calf at four to five year intervals, and may continue breeding until about fifty. A large family group can include four generations, and cows do not usually become matriarchs until they are 40 or 50.


Elephant calves are usually born during the early summer. A central bond is that between mother and calf, and mother elephants care for their young longer than any other animal, with the exception of humans and some whales. Pregnancy lasts nearly two years, and at birth the calf weighs roughly 100 kg, and stands just under three feet at the shoulder. Calves can continue to drink from their mothers (while also eating vegetation) until the age of three years; in some cases 5 years, although the norm is 2. If a nursing mother dies, her calf may be adopted by other nursing mothers.

During its first year a calf will remain close to its mother, only becoming more independant during its second year. Much is learnt by watching - young elephants will place their trunks in their mother’s mouths in order to find out what she has been eating. In addition to feeding it, the mother elephant protects her calf, assists it over obstacles, and squirts water and dust over it. Elephant calves are very playful and vocal, squeaking, squealing and barging into each other: they also bellow loudly if hurt.

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Best places to see the African Elephant in Southern Africa:

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Elephant are found in many of the National Parks and private nature reserves throughout africa. Click on the links below to find places that have elephant.


  • Kruger National Park (South Africa)
  • Pilanesberg National Park (South Africa)
  • Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve (South Africa)
  • Addo Elephant National Park (South Africa)
  • Marakele National Park (South Africa)
  • Etosha National Park (Namibia)
  • Chobe National Park (Botswana)
  • Mana Pools National Park (Zimbabwe)
  • Chizarira National Park (Zimbabwe)
  • Gonarezhou (Zimbabwe)
  • Serengeti National Park (Kenya)
  • Tsavo National Park


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Social HabitsFeeding Habits & DietReproductionConservation Status


  • Mala Mala Game Reserve
  • Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
  • Phinda Resources Reserve
  • Timbavati Private Game Reserve
  • Shamwari Game Reserve
  • Londolozi Private Game Reserve
  • Singita Private Game Reserve
  • Ngala Private Game Reserve
  • Makalali Private Game Reserve
  • Tembe Elephant Park (South Africa)
  • Lake Manyara Park
  • Mashatu Game Reserve (Botswana)
African Elephant Links

» Bio / Statistics / Facts

» Introduction

» Communication
» Social Habits
» Feeding Habits & Diet
» Reproduction and Musth
» Conservation Status

» African Elephant Books

» Images Photo Gallery

» Places to see Elephant
» African Elephant Safaris
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» Elephant Evolution

» Indian Elephant

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