A friend alerted us to this short video which shows fascinating elephant empathetic behavior and forethought. The entire elephant family we see is tuskless, which suggests a population that, at some point, has undergone heavy hunting for ivory.

Screenshot from Baby Elephant rescueThe video below is in low resolution, but as far as we can make out, this is what takes place: A family is by a mud wallow with very steep sides when an infant falls into the water. Using their trunks a young mother and an adolescent female attempt to pull the baby out, but they fail. The infant's distress calls alert the rest of the family to its predicament, and you can hear elephants trumpeting in alarm in the background. The elephants' tails are held high and they are secreting from the temporal glands - indicating that they are agitated. A larger female can be seen walking back and forth as she appears to be assessing how best to help - she start to enter the mud wallow at the far side. A fourth female arrives to help, but then gives up.

Then, the larger female abandons entering the mud wallow and, in the company of another large female, she comes over to the two younger females to help. As they arrive the adolescent female enters the water and together with one of the larger females (one with noticeable notches in her ear), tries to help the calf. The calf's mother then enters the mud wallow and, with clear purposefulness, she gently pushes the calf about 5-10 meters to a spot where the bank is not steep. She is accompanied by two allo-mothers (adolescent females) and one of the larger, older females, who may well be her own mother. Together these elephants shepherd the baby gently to safety.

The footage shows a marvellous example of the cognitive behavior of elephants.

Joyce & Petter