E is for Elephants
We are beginning to realise that it isn’t just humans who feel emotion. Elephants are a prime example of creatures whose expressions of emotion have been recorded and studied by scientists and given credence in recent years.
Who has not read about the elephants who stop in places where they have lost relatives and friends, and pause, seemingly lost in thought. If the bones of the dead elephant are there, they will caress them, turn them over, gently touch them – only elephant bones… as we might stand and by a grave and picture and think about a loved one. Grief. Only a creature that cared could feel this.
Friendship, love, and joy. If elephants have been parted, as they return to see each other, they become more and more excited.
They start to walk faster, and as they see each other, they begin to run – trumpeting, rumbling, all their body language of happiness at reunion. They rub against each other, caress each other, gambol – they have glands on their faces which stream fluid during their excitement.
Recently, psychologists have reported that they can suffer from post traumatic stress, after relatives and friends have been slaughtered or taken away, or if they have been moved to different places as part of a relocation programme.
As well as a series of sounds made through their trunk, like trumpeting, elephants also communicate in low rumbles, seismic signals most of which we cannot hear – these vibrations can travel through the ground for to be interpreted by the feet and trunks of by elephants possibly up to 10km away. Before the 2004 tsunami in Asia, elephants became distressed and rushed to higher ground – it’s thought that they detected the earthquake that caused the massive wave.
Mother elephants are remarkably vigilant and take great care of their young – they even keep flies off of sleeping infants by using a fan leaf to ward them away.
But my favourite fact is that mother elephants sing to their babies after they are born… a special low hum that they make at no other time. How wonderful…
Read more about elephants here: Wikipedia.
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Illustration and poem, first published in ‘Shouting at the Ocean’ Hands Up Press 2009 © Liz Brownlee
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