Duna was born in 2007 to Constant, a matriarch of an orphan elephant herd currently residing in Swaziland, Africa. Their small family – also known as a ‘bond group’- has been monitored by Heike Zitzer and Suzette Boshoff from Space for Elephants Foundation thanks to a collar placed on Constant. Heike has been able to observe the family movements, location and behaviour – allowing the researchers not only to find out more about the habits of these gentle giants, but also enabling the foundation to better protect them better. Duna’s family seemed to have gotten used to occasional occurrence of his mum’s collar checks and replacements, as they seem to slow down their movements so that she could always catch up.
Duna is one of the few blood-related family members in the group; as the rest of the group are mostly orphans. Elephants live within a network of complex social relationships, and display incredible intelligence and family loyalty. A typical herd consists of an older matriarch, her offspring and her daughters’ offspring. Family size on average varies from 8 to 15 individuals.
Duna is lucky to be son of a great matriarch as he is able to learn directly from the wise leader around whom everything revolves. The matriarch keeps the unit together and defends it, thanks to the most acquired knowledge of spatial and temporal resource distribution. She makes major decisions as to movements: daily, seasonal or annual, migration patterns, home range etc.
Duna, a strong teenager by now, will need that wisdom in his own journey – as soon enough he will be starting to mate and spend more time by himself and with fellow older males.
Photo and text credit: Heike Zitzer and Suzette Boshoff from Space for Elephants Foundation