Male associations and interactions in Asian elephants
Jawaharlal Nehru Centre For Advanced Scientific Research
In Asian elephants, females stay with their natal herd while adolescent males disperse away from the herd. Adolescent and adult male interactions have implications for their conservation and management but have not been studied before. We, therefore, studied association networks of identified males to see how structured male society was, and examined dominance interactions amongst them.
We collected association data on 657 identified elephants in Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks from 2009-2012. Dominance between males and non-dominant interactions between males and females were recorded. Network analysis was used to study associations. Dominance data were checked for linear hierarchy and effect of age. It was also checked if females responded differently to musth males.
It was found that males spent less time with female groups as they grew older. Males associated with other males non-randomly and female presence affected these associations. It was seen that some males are highly connected in the male-male association network. Dominance interactions involving only adult males were unidirectional with older males tending to win. Females responded differently to the interaction based on the male’s musth status.
The removal of a male from the population can impact the population, depending on his associations and dominance status. Individuals who are central to male society can be identified, which will be useful in management. Further, by comparing males association and behaviour in this area with that in other populations, we can see if the Kabini dam has affected male interactions and associations.