Born in 1968 to Philomena, Phil’s Wedge was a member of the so-called PA family. He became known as “Philomena’s Wedge” or shortened – Phil’s Wedge because he had a wedge-shaped tear out of his ear. Ears as well as tusks, are the major distinguishing features that researchers use to recognise each elephant. Phil’s Edge began to go independent in 1982 when he was 14 years old and was fully independent by 1983.
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’ (a highly hormonal period of mating.)
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 Phil’s Wedge fate.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service