Telegraph (UK) 14 Jan 2009
Researchers witnessed mothers disciplining wayward offspring as well as shepherding their families away from potentially violent disputes with neighbours. A team from Save The Elephants made the discovery as they spent a year following one family in the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya’s remote, arid north. The researchers captured the moment a mother knocked her older calf off his feet after he began misbehaving after the birth of a younger sibling.
The group leader, HarMattan, had lost a calf soon after birth and her only other son, named Buster, had reached the age of six with no siblings to divert his mother’s attention. “When she eventually had another calf, Buster became a very jealous mummy’s boy and kept trying to get between his mother and the baby,” said Saba Douglas-Hamilton, who co-presents the BBC’s Big Cat Diary series. “She eventually rounded on him and gave him an almighty smack which knocked him clean off his feet and sent him tumbling. This kind of aggressive admonishment, not enough to really hurt, but enough to show she meant business, is very rare in mother-calf elephant behaviour. “He learnt his lesson and is now off getting into trouble with the other boys in the group.”