Of all the iconic tuskers that have passed through Udawalawe over the years, Sumedha is the one I’ve known longest. All tuskers are distinctive, because they’re so rare in Udawalawe, but Sumedha additionally had a nice big hole in his left ear and an awkward tail with no hair. He wasn’t as regal as my beloved Raja, nor as old and wise as the Kalthota tusker, both of whom would have been easily dominant over him in the early years. But he was younger than either of them, and built like a tank. So if he survived, eventually his time would come. Continue reading
Guest post by Christin Minge
Male Asian elephants live rich social lives with a complex dynamic structure. They are often seen as solitary, but also frequently associate and interact with other males or female-groups depending on a variety of interconnecting factors, including life history, male dominance and alternative mating strategies, male and female sexual states and a complex feedback loop of social relationships with other elephants – just to name a few (Chelliah and Sukumar, 2013; 2015). The magnitude and consequences of sociality in male elephants are far from being explored yet, which is an emerging area of interest for the Uda Walawe Elephant Research Project. Simply speaking, mature males are expected to associate and interact with female-groups more during their reproductively active periods and are more solitary or in male-male associations during reproductively inactive periods. Continue reading
16 June 2014 – S. de Silva
A clear sunny day, Lucy and Mickey are off in the park with Sameera while Kumara and I stay behind to catch up on office work. It’s mid-morning when Sameera calls to tell us Walawe Kota is back! Walawe Kota is the nickname we’ve given the dwarf elephant of Uda Walawe. This would be at least the third year now. What’s more, he’s in musth and reportedly fighting another male. At first, the news is a bit confusing – there’s mention of a possible injury.
I’ve never seen him in the flesh though Kumara and Sameera have. I’ve only seen pictures and video clips, so I’m eager to try our luck. The park office reports he’s been spotted not far from the entrance, so we hop in our Jeep and dash off in hopes he’s still out in the open. Continue reading
Given the previous post about what shall now infamously be known as the incident of 2011, I thought it would be nice to lighten things up by sharing our other experiences with males in musth. Moreover, this is about one of those moments every scientist lives for: discovery.
First of all what is ‘musth’? Musth is a condition that male elephants undergo after their teens which is similar to rutting in sheep and deer, in which males spend most of their time trying to find reproductive females and battling other males for dominance. Hormonally, it means they are pumped full of testosterone. Typically a male has to be in very good body condition to enter musth, and the older he is the longer it can last – several months in some cases – and during that time he eats very little. You know a male is in musth when he shows reddish wet patches on the sides of his temples (just behind the eyes), and dribbles urine. Oh yes – and he also smells to high heaven (some of us happen to think it smells rather good, musky sweet and thick…but then again, some of us also like the smell of Durian).