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Elephants form unusual all-male groups in order to survive human landscapes

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Elephants form unusual all-male groups in order to survive human landscapes

Elephants are very much like us. Even they have to deal with complex social lives. But Asian elephants from the southern part of India seems to change their social lives in order to adapt to human-use landscapes that are replacing their natural habitats quickly.

Young male elephants which are typically solitary are now seen to form large, long-term and all-male herds. The news was published in Scientific Reports based on a study last week. According to experts:

“this adaptation could be an effort to learn the ropes from older, more knowledgeable males on how to avoid getting killed in these areas that pose an unnaturally high risk to elephants.”

To elephants, places that are dominated by humans near forests such as agricultural fields are often made by occupying their natural habitats. These areas often replace natural forest and connect one fragmented forest with another.  These areas basically act as supermarkets for these young male elephants as they can get plenty of food from there. For a young male elephant, there is nothing better than feasting on cultivated crops to boost their growth and health both of which are very important requisites to attain mates.

But the risks an elephant has to go run while entering these human-dominated areas is really high. They may get assaulted and injured and what not. This mainly happens as people chase these elephants away from their croplands. Sometimes it may even result in the death of an elephant. But despite such high risks, these elephants don’t budge from their choice of food. They keep coming back for more food. A study in northern Karnataka has shown that crop-based diets are so rich that they even lower their stress levels of crop-foraging elephants.

Nishant Srinivasaiah, wildlife biologists said that he often spotted elephant herd moving across human-occupied areas including crop fields near his long-term study site in Karnataka’s Bannerghatta National Park. His interests in elephants even got him analyzing YouTube videos of man and elephant interactions from the region. This is when he noticed the strange behavior in them.

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