Elephant family structure - Role of bull
Males stay with their mother and her herd for about 8 years. This period can, however, extend to up to 17 years. At this stage, they are still socially active, participating in events that affect their family. However, they remain more emotionally distant than the young female elephants, who prefer to take the lead in events like birthing and childcare.
Between the ages of 9 and 18 years is the period in which elephants experience their adolescence. This is the stage at which they begin to establish their own identity for themselves and within the larger group. They begin to spend less and less time with their mother, straying off to interact with fellow young bulls. During adolescence, he learns rules that prepare him for adulthood. These include lessons on his social standing within another group of bulls as well as sexual etiquette.
Eventually, they will depart from their mother’s care altogether, a process than can take anywhere between 1 and 4 years. It is typical for several bulls to form a bachelor band. It is in this band that the group will traverse landscapes in search of food, water, and receptive females with whom to mate. This band is not close-knit like the female-headed herd. The males frequently split to travel alone, or to join other bands. As a result, elephant bulls do not place a high value on forming close relationships with other elephants. There are instances of male elephants that have formed a friendship with another male, but these remain fluid relationships, with no real sense of commitment.
It is particularly during sexually active times that bulls will meander from one family to another in search of a female with whom to mate. When interacting with his natal herd, the bull will be polite and placid with his family, but the courtesy ends there. He adopts much the same approach with other herds. On finding a willing cow, he will mate with her for up to 3 days. Thereafter, he continues his travels in search of another cow, not fulfilling any sort of fatherly role in the life of the calf or its mother.
While the role of the male is not as structured and authoritative as that of the female, it is, undoubtedly, a crucial one.