Most of us animal lovers have long felt that animals of all shapes and sizes have more going on in their heads than just instinct and survival. Elephants, one of the largest and most intelligent land animals, are commonly thought to mourn over the loss of loved ones, assist each other in times of need, and seemingly care for others without any benefit to their own survival. Well, now a new study published in Peer J by Joshua Plotnik and Frans de Waal has shown that elephants will even console and comfort one another. That’s right- elephants are highly empathetic, offering emotional support to one another. Surprise, surprise. I think we all saw this coming.
“[Elephants] are also known for their “targeted helping,” or directed assistance that takes the specific needs of others into account (e.g., helping to lift and coordinated bracing of injured, dying or otherwise prostrate family members.- Douglas-Hamilton et al., 2006; Bates et al., 2008″
The study took place on a reserve in Thailand where the elephants could live life normally and naturally. The elephants, for the most part, were not blood relatives of each other. When stressful situations arose, it was observed that the elephants who were not frightened or distressed would attend to the ones that were, calming them down and reassuring them. It should be noted that the researchers didn’t cause any stressful situations, they only waited for naturally occurring ones.
The video below shows a herd of African elephants working together to help a mother save her baby trapped in the mud.