Born in 1988 to Poppy, Prince E was a member of the so-called PA family, who were first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
Cynthia Moss spent many years monitoring and recording elephants and published most valuable information about these magnificent animals. In the early years of the study, Cynthia was working out how many families there were in the population and who belonged in a herd. As the adult females were photographed and the composition of the groups recorded, the groupings began to emerge as families. Each of these families was then assigned a letter of the alphabet. Thus the first family photographed became the ‘A’ family, the next the ‘B’ family and so on. P family most likely due to size and some differences split into PA and PC group.
Prince E’s belonged to PA family during his early years, however like all males, as soon as he reached sexual maturity he ventured out on his own. The young males will associate more with other bulls and venture around with them. There is a strict dominance hierarchy among the bulls in a given area, which is acquired and maintained by age, strength and the occurrence of ‘musth’ – a highly hormonal period of mating.
Despite the initial researchers assumptions, bulls actually have a complex social organisation. They associate with cow-calf groups randomly and will move between groups in search of oestrus females. Once a bull has found a female he will “test” her urine or genitals, using his trunk tip to carry scent to the specialised gland (Jaboson’s organ) in the roof of his mouth. This testing gives him information on the hormonal state of the cow. The courtship lasts up to a few days, with the bull occasionally mating with the female and guarding her against solicitation of other bulls – sometimes even fighting like in the picture below.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Robbie Labanowski