Self-directed touching of the face (mouth, ear, trunk, tusk or temporal gland) or chest, with the fingers or tip of the trunk. Very often in the context of an interaction with another elephant, but may be seen in any context where an elephant appears uneasy or stressed. Likely analogous to the way we might scratch our head or rub our face when feeling socially or otherwise uncomfortable or unsure.

References: Kühme 1961; Poole 1999a; Poole & Granli 2003; Kahl & Armstrong 2000 [Touch-Face]. (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Ambivalent, Conflict & Confrontation, Social Play, Vigilance


Context: Ambivalent (1)

Little E is only 2 days old and he and Mama Little E (l) and allomothers, Lorato (center) and V-Notch (r), are together. There has been some tension between Mama Little E and the two allomothers, who are both trying to get as close to Little E as possible.

Mama Little E has recently Head-Swiped V-Notch and Lorato has just moved from another position and Back-Towards Mama Little E in order to get close to the infant. She Touch-Self x 2 likely due to her conflicting feelings. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Ambivalent (2)

Mama Little E, Little E (15 days old) and Lorato are out of sight in some bushes with a couple of young, troublesome males. A loud calf scream is heard and it is likely that Little E got frightened or hurt by one of the young males. Mama Little E and perhaps Lorato respond with a Coo rumble.

Mama Little E Back-Towards the males trying to rescue Little E. She looks alarmed and she Trumpets loudly. Allomother, Lorato, steps forward using a Guiding gesture with her trunk. She is with Little E. Lorato adopts a Suckle-Stance and then moves her Trunk-to-Infant-at-Breast as if to show him where to "Suckle" (she has no breasts). Mama Little E comes rushing forward. The male follows and Tusks Mama Little E and then put his Trunk-to-Genitals of, first, Mama Little E and then Lorato. Lorato Touch-Self looking apprehensive.

The adolescent male move to follow Mama Little E again and Lorato bravely uses her body to try to block him - Body-Block. The male continues past and Tusk Mama Little E again and then he runs trunk along his own tusk to Check-Tusk. He appears to contemplate, then scratch ear and then Tusk Mama Little E up the bum a 3rd time. (Maasai Mara, Kenya)


Context: Ambivalent (3)

Little E is only 4 days old. Allomother Lorato has defecated. Little E is interested. Mama Little E touches his genitals (Trunk-to-Genitals) and his anus, holds his tail and then Trunk-to-Genitals again three times. Little E then begins to Comfort-Suckle from allomother Lorato who adopts a Suckle-Stance. He stops and Mama Little E comes over and touches him under his mouth (Trunk-to-Mouth) and then along and up his trunk as she turns slightly away from allomother Lorato - appearing to use this motion to Guide him away from Lorato and toward her. He turns toward her.

As this is taking place, Lorato engages in a series of Ambivalent behaviors - Touch-Face, Trunk-Sucking and then steps forward and begins Displacement-Grooming - Dusting. Mama Little E walks on behind Lorato and Little E goes in front of her. As he passes by Lorato touches his genitals (Trunk-to-Genitals). (Maasai Mara, Kenya)