National Geographic: Coming of Age with Elephants


still uncharted territory.

Males leave their families

as teenagers

and never again live in stable groups.

Alone in her car,

Joyce followed them.

She was 19 years old and had no idea

what she was getting into.

To study the males Joyce needed

to get as close as possible.

But the shadow of a bull elephant

was perilous place to be.

A male that seemed placid

could easily turn around

and impale her car on his tusks.

When I first started studying

the males,

there were many times when I had

elephants corner me,

tower over the car,

and I thought it was all over.

Showing who's boss is something

male elephants do

from the time they're youngsters.

Most fights aren't dangerous.

Size normally dictates rank

and every male already knows

where he fits in the social hierarchy.

But every once in a while,

fights turn deadly serious.

What was it that changed

all the rules?

Joyce noticed several older males

dribbling gallons of urine.

Glandular secretions darkened the skin

behind their eyes as if with tears.

She saw one elephant

who also seemed to be suffering

from a fungal infection

she'd never seen it before,

so she named him Green Penis.

But then other makes turned up

in the same curious condition.

Joyce soon realized there was

a pattern.

Each male had his own time of year

when the symptoms appeared.

And it appeared at the same time

every year.

In Asian elephants,

these symptoms were already recognized

as part of a male sexual cycle.

African elephants are

a different species,

and the experts all said they did not

have such a cycle.

It took long months of tracking

and recording the behavior

of individual males,

but Joyce proved the experts wrong.

At the age of 23, she had discovered

a driving biological force

that every other researcher

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "National Geographic: Coming of Age with Elephants" STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 4 Dec. 2020. <>.

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