Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: About Emotions 🐘

Elephants are known to have the ability to express emotions. In the same way like humans and chimpanzees do, they can express sadness, empathy, stress, anger, joy, etc. 

Adolescents and juveniles can get easily annoyed or angry with each other. In the clip below, the adolescent in front of the camera gets annoyed by the juvenile approaching from behind, trying to put it away with its trunk from what it was first exploring on the ground, ears flapping. The juvenile leaves bothered with its tail up: so the sequence here would be: adolescent finds something interesting on the ground, juvenile wants to check it too with its trunk but the adolescent gets annoyed by it; juvenile leaves bothered like saying: "ok, it´s all yours!": 

original video: ACP00001vl

We have already talked about their strong social bonds, but have a look at this sequence: there´s a young individual afraid of something in its way and not daring to go through. Tail up, and walking stressed back and forth. The next individual (a juvenile, I would say female) rapidly approaches and touches it with its trunk in a comforting way. The third one does the same thing, trunk touch and approaching to explore the potential danger; it´s a male, excited by the situation with his penis out and flapping ears. Look at the first individual´s reaction when it´s touched by the trunks! it just calms down, accepts to keep walking and follows its `saviors`. Interesting video showing fear, stress and empathy resulting in protection, support and guidance: 

original videos: ACP000cb8k ACP000cb8l ACP000cb8n 

See how they react when they experience a stressful situation (in the case of the video below, the camera is the stressing factor). Tails up, ears flapping. If male, penis out, and if brave enough, ears out and walking in the direction of the potential danger in a threatening way:

original videos: ACP0000b7b , ACP000chqo 

They are as well known to show a special interest when it comes to a relative´s death. 
I´m sure you have heard about the elephant´s graveyard story; it tells that elephants have “graveyards” where they go when they feel that their end is coming closer, and it is certainly a beautiful story to believe in. However, let me just play the “killjoy” here. The reality is that as they get older, they start to lose their molars (remember?) and they need to feed on soft and wet plants that they can easily chew. So they go to the river sides where there are plenty of those plants. They would stay there until they die of starvation and then their bodies flow down the river and end up in a dryer place where the water can´t drag the body anymore. If there were some elephants dying near the same river, the result is a gather place with dead elephant bodies. That´s what local people see, and this fact along with the belief in the elephant´s huge intelligence make this beautiful graveyard story.

It´s been often documented that when an elephant dies, its group (or a different group) stays around the dead body for a while (sometimes even days), just standing and exploring it with their trunks and feet. If you think of the elephant´s need of feeding during many hours a day to get all the nutrients that they need, the fact that they just stay beside a body for hours, "wasting" their precious feeding time, is very surprising. 

Although there are plenty of images showing that they express emotions in front of a relative´s dead body, still there´s little scientific evidence of the reasons why they do it. But they do it… letting aside the scientific explanation, I myself have witnessed awesome scenes. 
Let me tell you a story that I heard about:

Some years ago, in a zoo in Germany, there was a group of female elephants living together for several years. So one day one of those ladies died. In order to avoid a macabre scene for the visitors, the workers in the zoo had to `prepare´ her body inside the elephant house to be transported in a truck out of the zoo. The other three elephants were of course outside during that procedure. The body was then transported in the food truck, and covered with a canvas. They had to drive the food truck with the covered dead elephant body all along the pathway in front of the elephant enclosure where the others stayed. Right when the truck was driving in front of them, all other females went close to the fence and stretched their trunks, sniffing the air. This fact alone was not that special, as they used to do it when the food truck was driving along every day. What was really surprising was that this time they started to trumpet out loud in the direction where their dead group member was being taken.  Amazing, isn´t it?


Save The Elephants: http://www.savetheelephants.org/about-elephants-2-3/elephant-news-post/?detail=rare-video-shows-elephants-mourning-matriarch-s-death

Upali.ch : http://de.upali.ch/zahne-zahnwechsel-stosszahne/