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  • Elephants are so different from us anatomically

  • that you would think there would be very few parallels,

  • and yet the more we learn about elephant society

  • the more parallels we see.

  • They seem to have very strong social bonds.

  • Females stay in their family groups their whole lives.

  • And the males will stay in their family group

  • until they become teenagers,

  • and then they will move out and they will hang out with other males

  • in what's known as a bachelor herd.

  • The calves get raised by their relatives as well as their mum.

  • So sisters, brothers, aunties, cousins, grandma

  • all contribute to the raising of the calf, much like we used to.

  • Elephants are really amazing at staying in touch.

  • Elephants will communicate with each other using vocalisations,

  • making sounds that are within human hearing range,

  • but we know that they also use something called infrasound

  • which is a very low-frequency sound.

  • And the thing about infrasound

  • is that it travels over very long distances, it can travel many miles.

  • And so we believe that elephants,

  • when they separate from each other in groups,

  • that they will keep in touch with each other using infrasound

  • and they will use that to coordinate their movements with each other,

  • eventually meeting back up together again.

  • For us in the Western world, and in big cities with so many people,

  • loneliness is a problem, is a massive social illness.

  • The behaviour of elephants suggests that they are aware of death

  • and that they do grieve and show emotion

  • when members of their family die.

  • And they also show interest in the remains of elephants

  • that they might not have known.

  • And I quote someone called Kyle Owens,

  • who was working in Burkina Faso in 1986.

  • He witnessed a remarkable scene

  • while watching a herd of eight elephants with a tiny baby.

  • He saw that the baby was ill, and throughout the morning,

  • the mother tried everything to raise the calf to its feet.

  • He says at dusk he returned, the baby had died.

  • Its tiny body was barely visible

  • as the other elephants had covered him with dirt and grass and leaves.

  • The mother positioned herself over her child and began to rock.

  • Occasionally other elephants would stroke her back affectionately

  • or intertwine trunks.

  • She continued to rock as darkness fell.

  • Like elephants we grieve,

  • it's normal and it's very common

  • and it's something that we're all going to experience in life.

  • Even though you have to go on without this person in your life,

  • you can live through the memories that you've had over the years.

  • Elephants touch each other with their trunks,

  • and this physical contact seems to provide comfort.

  • So an elephant that has appeared distressed,

  • when another elephant comes over to it

  • and seems to be comforting it using its trunk, and touching it,

  • the other elephant seems to then relax,

  • and seems to show less distress.

  • So, similar to hugging.

  • Comfort, affection, touching, hugging, kissing,

  • is quite a reassurance that, OK, there's some support there.

  • You want people to feel supported,

  • you want them feel like they are part of this society,

  • they are part of this world, and they have got a purpose here.

Elephants are so different from us anatomically

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B1 elephant calf herd grieve hugging touch

What elephants can teach us about life | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2020/08/18
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