Elephants exhibit very strong matriarchal family behavior. They have a matriarchal head, usually an older matriarch, her daughters (3 or 4 of them) and their calves. The typical elephant family is from 6 to 12 individual elephants. The females assist each other with the birth and care of their young. This ‘babysitting’ is a very important part of the young elephant’s preparation for when she is a first-timer mother. The matriarch is usually replaced by one of her daughters when she dies. The bulls stick to a bachelor (all-male) herd in which they live and travel. When males want to mate, they leave their herd and search for a herd of female elephants. They return to their bachelor herd after mating and have nothing to do with the rearing or caring for their young.
“Elephants value their family structure, perhaps more so than many other animals. They are naturally outgoing, sociable animals and, as such, enjoy the interaction with fellow family- and herd members. Although structured, the herd is fluid enough to compensate for unforeseen circumstances (such as the death of one of the mothers, where other mothers allow the orphaned calf to suckle). Such ties are rare, and the empathetic and insightful nature of these magnificent animals continues to lure researchers deeper and deeper into the elephant psyche.”
ref: Elephants Forever