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This beautiful piece is part of a series of skillfully lacquered panels depicting some of Cambodian renowned animals.
Elephants have always been an integral part of the culture of Cambodia, though much of their homeland has been devastated by the twenty year long war. This picture is a tribute to the majestic creatures that once roamed freely in the magnificent landscape.
Male elephants tend to be solitary creatures, going off to roam by themselves at about fourteen years of age until they come into musth and must find a mate, though they do occasionally band together to form what is known as a group of “bachelors". Female elephants tend to band together for protection, often with one or two babies from the group's last encounter with a male in musth.
This picture shows just such a band of female and baby elephants of varying sizes, with a clear matriarch. When there are young females in a group, they are often known as allomothers. These young females watch and learn from their older relatives, and often take turns to look after the baby elephants, so that one day they will know how to care for their own.