Elephants show cooperation with each other, whether it be helping other elephants trapped in muddy riverbanks, helping a baby that has fallen into a water hole or helping an injured elephant. One time in Burma, a mother elephant and her baby were swept into a flooded river. The mother pinned the baby against a rock with her head and trunk. With great effort, she then picked up the baby in her trunk, reared up and placed the baby on a shelf of rock above the flood level. The mother was swept away down the raging river. About a half hour later, as the baby was still shivering in the spot the mother had placed the baby, the mother came running down the bank and was joined with her baby. What a caring mother!
You might think that elephants don’t pay much attention to detail. In Africa, there was a group of elephants that knew a particular vehicle that regularly came to the area where these elephants were. One day, the vehicle appeared with a new door design. The elephants came over to the vehicle and explored the door with their trunks. The trunk of an elephant is like having eyes, nose, hands and machinery all combined in one! How would you like to have a nose on the palm of your hand? Humans are very visual, but elephants are very reliant on their sense of smell.
Elephants like to play. At the Bronx Zoo, the keepers would hide a tire, a favorite object for the elephants. When the elephants got close to the hidden tire, the keepers would blow a whistle which was a signal to the elephants that they were close to the tire. The elephants got all excited, and when they found the tire they would flap their ears. The flapping of their ears can show joy or excitement.
Some elephants are dignified and gentle, or shy, or a bully or even playful. Cynthia Moss, a renowned elephant researcher, believes that they show joy about similar things that humans show joy about like family, familiar friends, and tasty foods, and drink.
Why is the matriarch important to the herd? The matriarch has more extensive knowledge of the voices and calls of individuals in other family groups than the other elephants in the herd have. Also, survival of the herd relies on the matriarch. For example, she remembers where water holes are during different times of the year. It has been found that when a matriarch is over 35 years old, the herd survives better because of her increased memory. The premature death of the matriarch will leave the herd unprepared to survive. Elephants respect the experience of their elders. Rarely, would an elephant try to acquire a higher status within the herd. For elephants, status comes with age. It seems that humans could learn some lessons from the elephant society!
In Amboseli, a well-known elephant named Echo gave birth to a calf who could not straighten his forelegs. He moved painfully on his wrists and frequently collapsed. The researchers watching this situation thought that the baby would not be able to survive. The family kept prodding the elephant and raised him up when he fell. The baby was exhausted. But after three days with constant help from the family, the baby was able to straighten all four legs. It was definitely his family persistence that saved this baby.
Elephants also show empathy. One time, when an elephant ’s trunk was so badly injured that this elephant could not eat, another elephant took some food and placed it into the mouth of the hurt elephant. There are many instances where elephants help each other.
Elephants are really caring, loyal, affectionate and cooperative with other elephants. They are a society worth modeling. It is disastrous today that they are being slaughtered at such a high rate. It is estimated that 96 elephants per day are being killed. I hope that with education, people will understand that the elephant is a very caring family-oriented animal and that this slaughter needs to stop. Please support an environmental group helping elephants today like the World Wildlife Fund. #elephant