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Photo of the Week: Elephant Matriarchs

Female elephants form tight family bonds.

Posted May 8, 2014. Photo by Katherine Mast at the ABQ BioPark.

Elephants are highly social and intelligent animals, and female elephants have a unique and sophisticated culture. While male elephants spend most of their lives on their own, female relatives stick close together. A herd can include grandmothers, mothers and daughters, aunts and cousins. A matriarch - often the oldest, largest female - leads the herd. She’ll make decisions for the group, relying on her amazing memory, choosing travel time and routes and leading the herd to food and water. She knows best of all how to respond to drought or food shortages.

The BioPark’s elephant herd has several generations of related females, as well as an adopted member. Although she is not genetically related to the others, Irene is the oldest and has been the herd’s matriarch. Alice is both a grandmother and a mother. Her daughter, Rozie, has delivered two healthy babies over the past few years. The oldest, Daizy, was born in 2009. Jazmine, her younger sister (pictured here with Rozie) was born Oct. 2, 2013.

As we celebrate Mother’s Day, what matriarchs have helped guide important decisions in your life? Tell us on Facebook.