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Mamma elephant in the lead

Elephant family in Addo

A group of elephants is called a herd and is usually made up of females and youngsters. As soon as a young bull reaches sexual maturity he gets nudged out and joins other bulls in a bachelor herd of some sorts. Each herd is basically a family group led by a matriarch, an older and more experienced female, and is made up of her sisters, daughters and their calves.

The matriarch needs to be a lady of wisdom, strong connections and confidence as she has to guide her family group and they look at her for guidance to find water or food sources when there is drought. They also rely on the matriarch’s wisdom and experience to find the safest solution when they are faced with danger. 

Elephant family in Addo

One of the things you notice when visiting a park like Addo Elephant National Park is how the matriarch takes the lead and the rest of the family group follows behind her when they are on the move, especially on their way to water. You can always spot her as she is usually the biggest female in the group and often not scared to stand up to pushy bulls.

When the matriarch elephant dies, her position is usually taken by the closest relative to her, typically her oldest daughter.