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Born in 1984 to Qatara, Quennel was a member of the so-called QB family. The family was first sighted and photographed in 1976 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
As all other males, Quennel grew up in the maternal family until puberty at 12 –15 years when he left the herd. These 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. Old bulls become relatively more solitary, but still associate with other bulls – and that’s currently Quennel’s fate.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service