Elephants have been big subjects in the news lately, with zoos and circuses coming under fire for the mistreatment of these impressive animals, and poaching having a devastating effect on elephant populations, just to make a profit. All the while, conservation groups and animal lovers alike are trying a variety of tactics, like recent ivory crushes, to preserve and create respect for this species.

We know that these are intelligent, sentient animals, with evidence of their grieving both humans and other animal companions previously document. But now research is proving that “Asian elephants console others who are in distress with vocalizations and gentle touches,” according to a new report published in the journal PeerJ.

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Researchers Joshua Plotnik and Frans De Waal observed a group of 26 captive Asian elephants at a Thailand elephant park over a period of a year.

Wired explains the process, “The researchers observed the group for nearly a year, recording what happened when one of the elephants became distressed … Plotnik and de Waal found that nearby elephants used both touching and vocalizations to reassure distressed individuals.”

This video from Joshua Plotnik’s organization, Think Elephants International shows what the act of one elephant consoling another looks like in some instances.

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Plotnik and Waal’s research sheds light on the emotional lives of elephants, and also demonstrates that there is still so much to be learned about elephants, and even all non-human animals.

Think Elephants International / Facebook

Lead researcher Joshua Plotnik, a lecturer in conservation biology at Mahidol University in Thailand, said that this study could help improve conservation efforts.

According to Wired, he says “Although we know that loss of natural habitat is a real instigator of these problems [human/elephant conflicts], a better understanding of elephant physical and social intelligence could really help us develop comprehensive conservation protocols that take the elephants’ perspective into account.”

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Think Elephants International / Facebook

That’s really a huge part of learning compassion and empathy, simply taking the other’s perspective into account. This research, and all of the work of Think Elephants International, are integral to not only conservation efforts, but in creating a more compassionate world for everyone.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons