Tilly and Mae Kham Puan – A Lesbian Elephant Couple

Elephant Lesbians - Tilly and Mae Kham Puan

Elephants are matriarchal by nature, forming strong, tight-knit all-female herds, kicking out males when they become of age. In the wild, female elephants only consort with males for reproductive purposes, always returning to the herd.

Elephant Lesbians - Tilly and Mae Kham Puan

In the wild, Southeast Asian jungles, herds are typically comprised of only family members. However, in sanctuaries, such as Elephant Nature Park, unrelated female elephants form strong friendships, and even their own herds. While there are many well-known friendships at ENP, such as Jokia and Mae Perm, there is one very special friendship that we can relate to more than others – a lesbian elephant couple.

Meet Tilly

Tilly is around 30 years old and has been living at Elephant Nature Park for about three years. Before her rescue, she spent many years in the trekking industry and, given the fact that she has a dislocated hip, was most likely a victim of a forced breeding program. She pretty much keeps to herself and doesn’t want/need friends beyond her beloved Mae Kham Puan.

Elephant Lesbians - Tilly and Mae Kham Puan - Meet Tilly


Meet Mae Kham Puan

Mae Kham Puan is in her late 30’s and has been living at Elephant Nature Park for three and a half years. In her early life, she was forced to work in the illegal logging industry, and later became a trekking elephant. Mae Kham Puan has an independent personality and is quite the social butterfly. She has many friends at the park, with whom she enjoys spending time when she is not with Tilly.

Elephant Lesbians - Tilly and Mae Kham Puan - Meet Mae Kham Puan

Mae Kham Puan

Girls are Made of Spice and Everything Nice

While the other female elephants at Elephant Nature Park swoon over the males, pay them numerous social visits and flirt with them, neither Tilly nor Mae Kham Puan give the young bulls, Hope and Jungle Boy, the slightest bit of their attention. In fact, their reaction to anything male, such as discovering bull elephant poop, is exactly the opposite: Tilly and Mae Kham Puan will repel in disgust, confusion and even fear. For at least 15 minutes, they will discuss and comfort each other over the stress caused by a pile of dung. They clearly want nothing to do with bulls, and will happily live a male-free life.

Sexual Behavior

Further distinguishing Tilly and Mae Kham Puan from other friendships at the sanctuary is that there is a sexual component to their relationship. They often go to the river, where the taller Mae Kham Puan will get into a sphinx-like position in the water, allowing Tilly to mount her. It is clearly intended to be intimate and private, as they will not engage in such behavior if there are other elephants around, or even a large group of people.

Elephant Lesbians - Tilly and Mae Kham Puan - River

Not a bad location for love making!

Flirting and Jealousy

Mae Kham Puan, being more social and independent, enjoys spending time with her friends. Tilly, on the other hand, being more clingy and dependent, would prefer Mae Kham Puan all to herself and gets quite jealous when her beloved companion spends time away from her. To make matters harder for Tilly, Mae Kham Puan often flirts with her girlfriends, openly displaying her affection for them. Elephants do this by trunk draping. 

Elephant Lesbians - Tilly and Mae Kham Puan - Trunk Draping

Mae Kham Puan trunk draping her friend, Mae Sri Nuan (photo credit: Jodi Thomas)

It doesn’t take long before Tilly’s jealousy gets the best of her and she inches her way to the outskirts of Mae Kham Puan’s group of friends, where she will pout and complain. Eventually, Mae Kham Puan will say goodbye to her friends and rejoin Tilly.

Do you know any animal lesbian relationships?

21 thoughts on “Tilly and Mae Kham Puan – A Lesbian Elephant Couple

  1. Loren

    This is so romantic and touching. After lives of so much pain it is wonderful that Tilly and Mae Kham Puan have found each other. It is also that great that their love is recognised, so often with animals (including humans) people assume that if they are of the same sex it is just friendship, glad you know better.

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Loren,
      We too are so glad that Tilly and Mae Kham Puan have found each other. That’s true about human lesbians as well. When traveling people have assumed that we are friends or even sisters. On some unfortunate occasions, we’ve even been seen as mother/daughter or even mother/son. ANYthing but the truth! 🙂 We wish Tilly and Mae Kham Puan many more years of happiness together.

  2. E.B.

    What a sweet story you’ve unfolded here! Do you know the book The White Bone? It’s fiction, about matriarchal elephant tribes. The outcome is unhappy, but the story is beautiful.

  3. Mare

    I loved this so much, the sweet gals have each other, and after each of them has been thru so much, just to live out their lives in peace. is wonderful. Is this place, a place where people can come see them?

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Mare,
      You can most certainly visit them. In fact, the best way to see them is to sign up for a Pamper a Pachyderm day trip, where you can walk with them in the jungle and even eat lunch with them. I’m sure they would love to meet you too. 🙂

  4. Mo Orr

    Their story of love is touching, and how wonderous that they have the freedom to be who they are in a safe environment. As Loren said, it speaks to who you are that you care enough to recognise their intimate relationship.

  5. Giselle and Cody

    Funny that you wrote about Lesbian Elephants. The last time we were at the park I asked Jodi if she had any knowledge of homosexual behaviour in elephants. She didn’t get too deep into it as there was a lot going on at the park that day, but she did mention that it was a possibility. We don’t know any lesbian animals personally, but we know they’re out there, and we salute them!! 😉

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Giselle and Cody,
      Lesbian animals are definitely out there but I think it’s hard for us humans to notice something since our knowledge of animal behavior in general is so limited. But if homosexuality occurs in one species, it most certainly exists in others. The more we learn about animals, the more we realize that humans aren’t nearly as unique as we thought we were. 🙂

  6. Susan

    Watched a documentary of Myanmar wild elephants last night,they also showed a very distressing old film clip of the capturing of wild elephants and the hideous treatment to break their will, then sold to the tourist trade mainly in Thailand. It was wonderful to read your story, such magnificent animals.

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Susan,
      Yes, it seems that Thailand has run out of wild elephants and so the latest is that they are being smuggled in from Myanmar. Hopefully, there will be more places like ENP who care about their well-being. The more we learn about elephants, the more fascinating we find them! Magnificent indeed! 🙂

  7. Alex

    What an interesting post, and what an amazing opportunity you’ve had to get to know these animals on such a deep level of understanding!

  8. Carol Buckley

    Thank you for highlighting the loving relationship shared by Tilly and Mae Kham Puan. They indeed are very found of each other and are blessed to be together. But I believe you have confused elephant behavior with human behavior. You attribute mounting in the water and trunk draping as signs of affection with elephants, but actually, they are both signs of dominance. Peaceful, gentle, elephant dominance.

    1. Bounding Over Our Steps

      Hi Carol,
      We agree that Tilly and Mae Kham Puan are lucky to have found one another regardless of how we define their relationship. We, being two humans, are indeed most likely seeing their relationship in a way that we can understand. Instead of only focusing on the dominance of trunk draping and mounting we have tried to illustrate the entirety of their relationship without only focusing on aspects that may or may not be sexual. We would also argue that there is a dominance aspect to human sexual behavior as well. But I’m sure we can all agree that their happiness and the way they are treated are of utmost importance at any rate. Thanks for visiting our blog. 🙂

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