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Big Bulls 'Rehabilitate' Rowdy Teen Elephants

  • Thursday, July 1, 1999

Sometimes it takes a big, strong father-figure to get an unruly teenage male to shape up.

And that's not just in humans. Take the situation in South Africa's Pilanesberg National Park, where the matriarchal elephants a few years ago welcomed and nurtured the very young male orphans relocated from Kruger National Park.

But once the orphans became teenagers, the female group spurned them. Like unconstrained adolescents of many species, the males, their hormones ablaze, became seriously aggressive, even killing some rhinos.

Theorizing that their outrageous behavior might be due to the absence of dominant older males, Pilanesberg officials in March 1998 imported six big adult bulls from Kruger to keep the youngsters in line. So far the ploy seems to be working, and no more rhinos have been attacked. But WildNet Africa News reports that the park's field ecologist says it's too soon to tell if the teens are fully rehabilitated or just temporarily intimidated by their elders.

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