As with humans, the life cycle of an elephant can be split into three stages – baby, adolescent and adult.
Elephant babies can weigh anything from between 70 kg to 165 kg, and stand some two and half feet tall when born. They are then looked after by the whole herd, but more specifically by their mother and other female relatives known as “allomothers”. They will drink their mothers milk, and indeed be totally dependent on them, until around three to five years of age.
Elephants reach adolescence after the weaning stage (about five to ten years). During this time males will usually break away from the herd, either to be solitary or to join other males in what are known as “bachelor” herds. The females will stay with their family herd and be much more social. While both sexes reach sexual maturity during this period, they do not mate until they are adults.
Elephants become adults when they are 17 or 18 years old. They will usually start to mate around twenty years of age, with females able to have young up to their fifties. They can live up to 70 years and, perhaps surprisingly, their death from long life is usually caused by their teeth, which wear down so much that the elephant ultimately starves to death.
Photo credit: Flickr user blieusong