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Aina Meducci 2012


The following blog posts is not genuinely from my research but through readings and citation from trusted website. I do not own any of the copyright and therefore you may use it at your own risk


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A zoo keeper in Zoo Melaka told us a story about elephant rampage and how he was attacked with sexually active elephant that puts him into ICU for a week. Later, Prof Aung explained to us about periodic condition that occurs to all adult bull elephants-Musth


Musth is a period among adult male elephants, (over 15-20 years old) sometimes referred to as similar to male deer's "Rot". There is a three weeks pre-musth-condition, about one month high-musth, and one post-musth condition. Their temporal glands become swollen, from where a strong smelling fluid, rich of testosterone, runs down on their cheeks. During musth the males are very aggressive, and sexual active. A musth elephants are primed to mate, fights with other bull elephants, attacks other animals and destroy inanimate object on it's way.

A musth elephant

A musth elephant chasing a giraffe

A bull elephant chained during musth

The reason for the musth seems to be that it prevents inbreeding. If the bulls would not be at their aggressive peak only for a month a year, only the largest, most dominant bull would cover the females all the time. In captivity, the limited space makes it dangerous to let a bull in must condition to a female, since she may be attacked and wounded if she is not willing to mate.

Often, elephants in musth discharge a thick tar-like secretion called temporin from the temporal ducts on the sides of the head. Temporin contains proteins, lipids (chelesterol), phenols, cresols, and farnesol. Secretion from urine contain elevated levels of various highly odorous ketone and aldehydes. The elephant's aggression may be partially caused by temporin which naturally trickles down into elephants mouth. Another factor is caused by the swelling of temporal glands;this presses on the elephant's eyes and cause acute pain. Elephants sometimes try to counteract this pain by digging their tusk into the ground.

Temporin secretion during musth

Most cases of elephants killing their handlers, or reports of a"rogue" wild elephant running wild through villages and attacking people, is during musth, when they get out of control, and their level of agression is high.

Younger bulls usually also go into a similar condition, from about their tenth year, but not so strong, and not so long time usually, a couple of days or a week, developing stronger musth for every year, with a peak between 30 and 40, then gradually showing less symptoms. Bulls aging over 55 does seldom show musth at all.

Asian Wild bulls often go into musth during rain season, and when they have had unnormal access of food, so the reason for the longer musth periods in captivity may have a connection with the short days during winters, (hormones often depend on daylight)over feeding, and under stimulation.

Ways to control musth in elephants;

  1. Chain the elephant separately nearly about a month.
  2. Put on starvation diet for several days until periodic musth is passed
  3. Give xylazine which cause sedation and muscle relaxation

Sources: Musth.wikipedia.org
Musth a sexual agressive period among elephants bulls

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