In August, at only eleven years-old, Dor Khoun Mueang went through his first musth.
Dor Khoun Meuang and Mae Mah
Musth is a periodic condition in bull elephants that is characterized by aggressive behavior and accompanied by a large rise in reproductive hormones. Testosterone levels in an elephant in musth can be on average 60 times greater than in the same elephant at other times.
This is very young and can be seen as a sign that he is in great health. This was spotted by the elephant tracking team as they tried to approach him in the forest. He was unusually aggressive towards them, and the team had to leave him alone. He was much calmer the next day and they were able to approach him and assess that it was indeed musth, with evidence of secretions from the glands still present.
Dor Khoun Mueang has also been spending more time alone in the last few months, according to the tracking team. They say when they have spotted the three females, Dor Khoun Mueang has not been with them on several occasions. This, like the musth, is telling us that he is growing up! It seems that he is roaming around, possibly trying to locate some other males to socialise and interact with. We will keep a close eye on this. This sort of data should be useful in the future to try and understand just how far roaming juvenile males’ stray. It is rare to put GPS collars on wild elephants at this age as they are still growing so there is a risk the collar could become too tight while the elephant continues to grow. However, because our team monitors Dor Khoun Mueang so frequently and can still manage him when needed, we are able to adjust the collar if needed without the need to sedate him.
The tracking team recently captured this beautiful video of Dor Khoun Meuang and the female elephants.
The ECC has submitted a formal request to the government to change the legal status of Mae Mah and the other three elephants in the released herd to wild elephants. This group has been free roaming for more than four and a half years now and have consistently proven to the release team that they are capable of living without any human intervention. They show essentially no interest in crop raiding and have posed no real threat to the local community. Although this release alone will not save elephants in Laos, our hope is that it will trigger a national elephant reintroduction program, that can help repopulate Laos’ forest with healthy herds of elephants.