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New Elephant Moms Don’t Get Any Maternity Leave, Study Says

The toxic girl bosses of the animal kingdom, they’re right back to leading their herds almost immediately after giving birth to their 260-pound-plus babies

Even those of us who love elephants have to admit that the behemoth mammals can also be total jerks. The massive creatures have giant brains and incredible memories, which they’ve been known to use to hold grudges and remember their enemies, among other things. 

But now scientists might have discovered their biggest dick move yet. These bozos won’t slow down to let elephant mothers rest after giving birth to their massive, 260-pound-plus babies that they spend almost two years gestating. The new study, published in the forthcoming May 2022 issue of Animal Behaviour, found that the average daily speed of elephant herds doesn’t decrease at all during their 22-month-long pregnancies — the longest gestation period of any living mammal. 

In fact, by putting GPS collars on 23 pregnant elephants, researchers found that the only time their speed took a slight dip was on the day of the birth itself. But by the very next day, they were back at it — traveling with their strongly bonded, female-led herds at their normal pace.

Lucy Taylor, lead author of the study and a zoology junior research fellow at the University of Oxford, believes these findings help explain why elephants are pregnant for so damn long: The babies need to enter the world ready to rise and grind with the rest of the herd. “I find it remarkable that female elephants are pregnant for 22 months, give birth and then are capable of carrying on almost straight away. Even the oldest female in a family herd, the matriarch, can still give birth and lead the group, which I consider to be another demonstration of the strength and resilience of female elephants,” Taylor noted in a press release

While going back to work the day after giving birth sounds like something only corporate executives would consider a positive, for elephants, keeping up and sticking with the herd is integral to their survival. “Elephants of various species once roamed every continent on earth. Sociability and shared experience are likely major factors that allow African Savanna elephants to thrive in such a wide range of habitats,” Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants, a nonprofit organization that collaborated with the University of Oxford, said in the study’s press release. “Keeping up with the herd from the moment of birth also allows the babies to benefit from protection against predators at a vulnerable stage.”

On top of that, elephant herds need to keep moving every day in order to find enough food and water to survive, which is yet another reason why there’s no stopping for rest, even after giving birth to the largest land animal. 

So in fairness, there’s a lot more Darwinism at play than toxic girl boss.