In their native habitats, elephants live in family groups led by a dominant female who maintains order and provides her family with survival skills. This ancient matrilineal structure is the guiding principle of the Oregon Zoo's elephant vision. Caring for elephant families means nurturing complex relationships and providing a life and environment full of choice.
The importance of family becomes especially apparent when a baby is born. Each member of the elephant herd plays a unique and critical role in protecting and raising the calf and supporting the mother. Elephants wouldn't know how to be elephants if it weren't for the efforts of the entire family, including bulls. Male calves need bull role models to teach them how to behave around females.
When male elephants come of age in the wild, they leave their families and spend most of their time on their own or in bachelor groups, only interacting with the females periodically. This dynamic helped shape the design of Elephant Lands. The family's expanded new habitat will allow male elephants to socialize, whether in proximity with the female group or separately as a bachelor group.