Elephant bull introduced to herd in ARTIS

– March 27, 2024

An adult elephant bull was introduced to the herd of Asian elephants at ARTIS Zoo today. After first making contact with their trunk through the fence, the bull was soon surrounded by the curious herd upon introduction. Only the young 3-year-old male still avoided his adult consort. The hope is that he will provided the youngest cow of the herd with her first offspring.

The 20-year-old bull came from Dierenrijk. The exchange came about thanks to a recommendation from the coordinator of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) of the Asian elephant.

'We went to Dierenrijk earlier with some zookeepers to meet the keepers there. He was loved there for his social and calm nature, and that also typified his introduction today to the herd here. Yesterday, the youngest cow had her eye mainly on her ball and a little less on the new man. But they are already looking for each other a bit more. He will stay with the herd for the time ahead,' says Peter Bleesing, team leader of animal care.   

Family ties

A herd lives in ARTIS with the oldest cow, the matriarch, leading the group. Together with her offspring aged 18, 7 and almost 4, she forms a close-knit family group. Strong family bonds and raising young play an important role in the social welfare of elephant cows. Bulls, on the other hand, join a herd only when there is a chance to mate.

The youngest in the herd is also a male. He still drinks occasionally with his mother, but is becoming slightly more independent. The arrival of the adult male is also a social enrichment for him, as young bulls are often absorbed into a male group under the care of older bulls.

Squeezing corners

In elephants, the act of reproduction requires a lot of effort from the bull. Weighing at least 5,000 kilos, it stands on its hind legs and leans on the cow with its front legs to mate. Young bulls practise their balance from an early age by jumping on each other. The bull has to twist itself a bit for successful fertilisation. Bulls have an S-shaped vulva whose opening is not under the tail, but near the belly. If the bull does not know how to aim properly, fertilisation is out of the question. On average, an adult cow is once every 16 weeks in her cycle. So a successful mating may take some time.