Song of the Lost Clan Information and Resources on the Young Adult Novel

Matriarch Leaders Intagral to Elephant Clan Survival

January 28, 2014 · By Angela Render

Research on elephants is a process and the more we study, the more remarkable and complex we discover elephant society to be. Amboseli National Park in Kenya is one of the places where much of this research is done, primarily because it’s one of the few places undisturbed by humans where a large population of elephants can enjoy a more natural home.

Cynthia Moss leads the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP), founded in 1972, says, “Our studies show how absolutely crucial matriarchs are to the well-being and success of the family.” The Matriarch and her immediate female relatives, as well as her immature young of both sexes, forms the base of an elephant clan. This core group expands and contracts with more extended family members seasonally and even daily depending on the environment. This expanding and contracting social network is called a fission-fusion society. This complex social situation is also found in human cultures.

The Matriarch’s influence on the social structure creates multi-fold effects, from determining which and how many elephants are within that network–effecting what sort and how many things the individuals within can learn–to having a vast repository of personal information to draw on in time of need. Not only that, but clan members actually defer to the knowledge of their elders as well, especially with regards to predators and other elephants.

A recent increase in poaching has been hitting the oldest and wisest elephant leaders, who have the largest tusks, the hardest. It’s not yet apparent what effect this will have on elephant society, but analysis of groups hardest hit by poaching indicates that the surviving members are suffering from chronic stress and a lowered ability to reproduce.

Source: What elephants can teach us about the importance of female leadership By Lesley Evans Ogden and New Scientist (Washington Post, January 27, 2014)

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