Estimated to be born in 1975 to Phoebe, Paddy was a member of the so-called PC family, who were first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants. Up until 1982 the Ps, as they were called then, made up the largest family in the Amboseli (Kenya) population. They weathered the severe drought of 1976 remarkably well including little Paddy. By the end of 1976, by which time Cynthia knew the family fairly well, it consisted of 22 members.
Then there was a baby boom in Amboseli in 1979-80. Along with all the other families in Amboseli, the Ps began to increase and over the next three years despite some deaths, they grew to 29 animals. By 1983 some sort of elephantine decision was made and the Ps split in two herds. It was the first family in the population to permanently split into two; there have been others since then but it is not a common occurrence. There were two clear-cut families, who formed a bond group, still spent some time all together and greeted each other when they met but all together travelled and lived separately.
Paddy with his mother Phoebe, who became a matriarch, formed the PC family. He only enjoyed their company for a few more years as soon he was about to venture out on his own.
All males grow up in the maternal family until puberty at 12 –15 years – then cows start chasing young males out of the unit. The young males will associate more with other bulls and venture around with them. There is a strict dominance hierarchy among the bulls in a given area, which is acquired and maintained by age, strength and the occurrence of ‘musth’.
Despite the initial researchers’ assumptions, bulls actually have a complex social organisation. They associate with cow-calf groups randomly and will move between groups in search of oestrus females. Once a bull has found a female he will “test” her urine or genitals, using his trunk tip to carry scent to the specialised gland (Jaboson’s organ) in the roof of his mouth. This testing gives him information on the hormonal state of the cow. The courtship lasts up to a few days, with the bull occasionally mating with the female and guarding her against solicitation of other bulls. Old bulls become relatively more solitary, but still associate with other bulls – and that’s currently Paddy’s fate.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Save the Elephants