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Wild Elephant Antics and Broken Tusks



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Male elephants are solitary by nature, having been driven away from the rest of its herd, when they reach puberty. This is called 'natal dispersal', and is a mechanism that has evolved over the millennia to avoid (a) inbreeding with relatives and (b) competition with kin. After that they lead a nomadic life, sometimes associating with other senior bull elephants ‘to learn the ropes’ of survival and eventually being ready to claim their own female for reproduction.

On reaching full maturity, bull elephants, especially the Asian species, come into a state called "musth", in which their urge to mate goes into overdrive and they become very aggressive.

During musth, males are flooded with up to ten times as much testosterone as usual. They have swollen temporal glands: swellings bigger than a grapefruit that stick out behind their eyes. They are also extremely aggressive, and discharge an almost continuous dribble of urine that creates a scent trail as they walk. The famous elephant researcher Cynthia Moss calls it "a kind of Jekyll and Hyde transformation".

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