Using the distal portion of the trunk to check or test uneven, loose, slippery, deep or other potentially dangerous substrate before stepping on it. Elephants may use the trunk to check for loose rocks or particularly, when walking through a river, to test whether the river bed is firm, the substrate is rocky or whether there might be a sudden drop-off. The trunk is seen to reach out and tap or touch the ground before each step is taken.

References: Poole & Granli 2021. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Attentive


Context: Attentive (1)

An adult female stretches her trunk down to the bottom of the river to check the substrate to make sure it is safe to walk across. We can see that there is a deep spot and her Test-Subtrate technique has helped her navigate. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Attentive (2)

Mother and female calf are making their way carefully across loose and slippery rocks. The mother uses her trunk to Test-Substrate first. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Attentive (3)

Little E is 16 days old. His family is trying to get across a rocky river bed. Mama Little E is walking slowing and seems to use her Trunk to check out the safety of the substrate - Test-Substrate. Little E is Tail-Raising in response to a new frightening situation. Mama Little E slips and falls and lands on Little E. No wonder they have been so careful!

Little E roars, someone snorts and females by rumbling and Tail-Raising. Latino whirls around and Redirects-Aggression, Standing-Tall and Kick-Dust, Foot-Scuff, and Head-Dip-Touch-Ground as they check to see what the problem was - check out the rocks as if to see what went wrong. Latino and Lorato and V-Notch all touch little E. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Attentive (4)

Pascal is in full musth and approaches a water hole. He uses the tip of his trunk to clear the vegetation away and then reaches his trunk down into the water to test its depth and the substrate before carefully descending into the water. As he does so he gives an expected Musth-Rumble (barely audible) and Ear-Wave. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Attentive (5)

A young male descends the bank to the river and uses his trunk to test the depth of the water and the firmness of the river bottom. He Drinks twice and then Walks across the river using the curled end of his trunk to test the bottom of the river before taking each step. We can see him ''tap'' the river bottom with his curled trunk. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)