Context of Interactions
Elephants are extremely tactile animals. They purposefully touch one another using their trunk, ears, tusks, feet, tail, and even their entire body. Tactile interactions between elephants occur during a broad range of contexts including aggressive, defensive, affiliative, sexual, playful, care-taking and exploratory behavior.
Depending upon how their tusks are employed, elephants may use them to poke another aggressively, to gently lift a baby from a mud wallow, or to express solidarity during a greeting ceremony.
Elephants often use their ears to rub against another affectionately or in play, or their tails to swat another with force or to gently check for the presence of a calf.
An elephant's trunk may be used to caress, reassure or assist a calf, to explore the genitals, mouth or temporal glands of a family member, to touch or explore the body of a dead elephant, to touch or push another in play. In more aggressive or defensive contexts an elephant may use its trunk to slap or to block, or to reach out to another for reassurance when facing a predator. In sexual contexts elephants use their trunks to explore, to test or to control the movements of another.