A vigorous scraping, ‘pawing’ or trampling of the ground with a forefoot, often churning up dust and debris. This behavior is typically seen when an elephant is conflicted and is a form of Displacement-Behavior. It has been recorded at elephant Births, when elephants feel under threat, and when elephants have killed a person.

References: Poole & Granli 2003 [Trample-Ground]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Birth, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Conflict & Confrontation, Death, Foraging & Comfort Technique, Social Play


Context: Social Play (1)

Two male calves are Sparring and it gets a bit rough, with the calf on the right forcing the calf on the left to his knees. The calf on the left retaliates and tries to Mount the other calf, but falls off onto some thorns. He can be seen to inspect the underside of his foot and then to pick up and move a small thorny branch. Then with his ears in an angry posture he begins to scrape his foot on the ground. He finds a rock of a piece of bark and scrapes his foot on that - or tries - 7 times - to flip it and grab it with his trunk fingers. He fails. Then he begins an extraordinary backward Scrape-Ground movement that involves about 10-12 steps - primarily scraping his right foot on the ground. Then he finds another rock or piece of bark and tries repeatedly to flip that. Is he annoyed? Is he trying to remove a thorn? We have not seen this sort of behavior before. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)