I always find elephant mating pictures amazing – just imagine the effort required from the bull to lift his 5-ton body onto the cow - a height of over 2 metres (6.5') during the mating process.
Females become sexually mature at about 13 years. The males reaches sexual maturity at 14 years but won’t start mating until he’s matured a bit on other levels first. The older an elephant bull, the more successful he is in his mating endeavours.
A lot can be said about musth, the sexual cycle of the bull elephant. Suffice to say here it is not a prerequisite to sexual activity in African elephants, but the musth period is a time of increased sexual energy and aggression, so chances are better that they will mate during this 3-4 month period.
When a female elephant goes into oestrus (4-6 days at a time), she will constantly be on the lookout for a potential mate. As a suitable bull approaches the herd she’s part of, she will start moving away, her tail held high, and look back periodically to see if he’s following her.
Once she’s managed to lure a bull away, he will keep chasing her until she comes to a standstill at a suitably secluded spot, away from the herd.
The male will first caress the female’s head and neck with his trunk, until eventually he levers himself onto his hind legs, mount and subsequently penetrate the cow. He will usually stay mounted for just under a minute.
Sometimes elephant mating will also take place in the water, even among other herd members – as can be seen in the video clip above.
Should mating be successful, a gestation period of 656 days follows – almost 2 years!