Elephants are highly intelligent, sensitive, and social creatures. In the wild, they live in close-knit matriarchal herds. All members of the group work together to find food and water, raise their young, and take care of one another. They are especially protective toward their children, as the above video demonstrates all too well. In the video, we see the incredible rescue effort that occurred after a baby elephant became trapped upside down in a water trough in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. His mother was unable to free him. She did her best to keep the other elephants away from him – but was largely unsuccessful in this, as the incident occurred during a heatwave and they all wanted a drink!
Human rescue groups were alerted to the situation but it took them several hours to organize a successful rescue effort. The elephants were not about to wait around – they had every intention of taking matters into their own hands!
Before long, another elephant family approached the group “at breakneck speed, faster than any others had approached,” according to a human witness. Their matriarch – the eldest, most experienced female who typically leads every elephant herd – began to pry the baby out of the trough. Other members of the herd worked together to keep the baby’s mother from interfering. Perhaps they felt that she, in her frantic emotional state, would not be able to assist in the rescue effort as well as the more cool-headed matriarch.
As soon as the baby was free, the wise elephant led him away from the rest of the group and signaled to his mother that it was now safe to come and collect him. You can clearly see how relieved she was to be reunited with her child again!
This amazing rescue effort just goes to show that elephants are incredibly loving, determined, and psychologically complex creatures. Witnessing such a breath-taking interaction between wild elephant herds is an incredible honor. Sadly, captive elephants never get to experience these kinds of relationships – just one more reason why they should never be kept in zoos!