Elephants comfort distressed herd mates


This video is called Asian Elephants Console The Distressed.

From Wildlife Extra:

Asian elephants reassure each other when distressed

February 2014: Asian elephants console others who are in distress, using physical touches and vocalizations just like humans, say scientists.

The findings are the first empirical evidence of consolation in elephants, “For centuries, people have observed that elephants seem to be highly intelligent and empathic animals, but as scientists we need to actually test it,” says lead author Joshua Plotnik of Emory University.

A group of 26 captive Asian [elephants] at an elephant camp in northern Thailand were observed for nearly a year by the researchers, who recorded stress incidences of individuals and the responses from other nearby elephants.

“With their strong social bonds, it’s not surprising that elephants show concern for others,” says co-author Frans de Waal, an Emory professor of psychology and director of Living Links at Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center. “This study demonstrates that elephants get distressed when they see others in distress, reaching out to calm them down, not unlike the way chimpanzees or humans embrace someone who is upset.”

The study found that nearby elephants would then comfort the distressed individual through directed, physical contact which often included using their trunk to gently touch the distressed elephant’s face, or put its trunk in the other animal’s mouth, in a move a bit like a handshake or hug.

Plotnik says. “It’s a very vulnerable position to put yourself in, because you could get bitten. It may be sending a signal of, ‘I’m here to help you, not hurt you.'”

In addition, elephants frequently responded to the distress signals of other elephants by adopting a similar body or emotional state, a phenomenon known as “emotional contagion,” which may be related to empathy. Groups of nearby elephants also were more likely to bunch together, or make physical contact with each other.

The current elephant study’s limitations include the fact that it was restricted to captive animals. “This study is a first step,” Plotnik says. “I would like to see this consolation capacity demonstrated in wild populations as well.”

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16 thoughts on “Elephants comfort distressed herd mates

  1. How can anyone doubt it!? Why should there be studies about this? They are sentiments beings ….. like whales, dolphins, lions …. like any animal!!!
    Hugs Kitty.

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