Elephants are more like us than you realize. From grieving for lost loved ones and comforting their friends, to getting chatty with herd mates and checking themselves out in the mirror, these magnificent creatures have demonstrated endless behaviors many people believed to be unique to humans. With less than 650,000 elephants remaining on the planet, they are in real danger of extinction, and it’s our job to protect them.
Facing habitat loss, threats from poaching, and mistreatment in captivity, these intelligent and social animals share many traits in common with the very species that have caused them the most trouble – us. To help raise awareness of their plight, as well as to help people to understand just how socially complex elephants truly are, here are 10 ways elephants are like us:
1. They Know How Important Family Is
Family is at the core of the elephants life, and they take no shame is showing their happiness when they are among their loved ones. Just look at how pleased this family herd is playing in the rain together.
2. They Comfort Upset Friends
3. They Love to Chat (Or Rather Trumpet)
Squeak, chirp, rumble or trumpet, elephants have a variety of complex vocalizations that they use to communicate with their herd members and express how they are currently feeling. Just listen to these two playful friends.
4. They Suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Unfortunately, stress is no stranger to elephants. Baby elephants have been known to wake up in the middle of the night screaming in terror after witnessing their families being murdered and poached. This video of a heartbroken calf who refuses to leave his mother’s side shows how difficult losing a parent is for an elephant.
5. They Babysit
Female elephants help to look after each other’s calves. This babysitting is important for elephant development, as young females learn how to look after the little ones before becoming mothers themselves.
6. They Like to Look In The Mirror
Few species have the cognitive ability to recognize themselves in the mirror, but elephants have passed the test. This self recognition demonstrates that they are able to see themselves as separate, one of the main traits underlying empathy and complex sociality.
7. They Know How to Work Together
Elephants display an understanding of cooperation that has only ever been confirmed in humans and our closest relatives. Thoughtful and calculated, they know how to work in a team. Watch this team of elephants rescue a baby who is caught in the strong river current.
8. They Protect Those They Love
One of the most touching elephant behaviors of all is the way in which they protect those they love. If a calf squeals in distress, its mother and others will rush to its protection.
9. They Enjoy Hugging
Who doesn’t love a hug? Not unlike two people greeting with a handshake, elephants hug each other by wrapping their trunks together as their own personalized way of saying hello and as a sign of affection.
10. They Are Plant-Based Foodies!
Okay, well maybe not all humans would consider themselves herbivores, but those of us who eat a plant-based diet share that in common with the elephant. Elephants could be thought of as foodies of the sahara, they are picky eaters who like to explore all the culinary highlights that the plant kingdom has to offer.
Lead image source: RayMorris1/Flickr