During Sparring, Dueling, Greeting or during the formation of Coalitions, such as High-Fiving or End-Zone-Dance, elephants may click or clank their tusks together. In affiliative and coalition building contexts this has been referred to as Tusk-Clicking, but the sound is much more of a clank during Sparring or Dueling. In the former two or more closely allied elephants may stand either parallel or face-to-face, adopting Head-Raising, Open-Mouth-to-Open-Mouth, and Trunk-Twining may (apparently purposefully) click their tusks together.

This form of Tusk-Clicking or Clanking occurs during intense social interactions such as High-Fiving, Bonding-Ceremonies or during interactions in which an elephant wishes to express solidarity with a friend or family member such as during a Greeting, Coalition Building or an End-Zone-Dance. In this context the participants are adult or adolescent females. Tusk-Clanking also occurs during Sparring when two males, or a male and a female, stand face to face, also Head-Raising, Open-Mouth-to-Open-Mouth, and Trunk-Twining, their tusks clicking together. Further, elephants will clank their tusks together as weapons as they Duel.

References: Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6; Moss 1988; Payne 2003; Poole & Granli 2003; Poole & Granli 2011. [Trunk-Clicking] (Full reference list)

This behavior occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Aggressive, Coalition Building, Social Play


Context: Aggressive (1)

Following on from 'Dueling. Context: Aggressive (1)' the group with Ozora in estrus and Liaqat lightly Guarding her is moving toward the swamp. The same 15 year old male is still harassing her, though he is careful of Liaqat's proximity to her. As Liaqat follows behind Ozora the young male can be seen Backing-Away from her (and him). But, when Liaqat stops to Ear-Wave at the male behind him, the young male in front takes advantage, Advancing-Toward Ozora and threatening her. She Ear-Folds and Lunges at him and they Tusk-Clank. Liaqat appears in frame and the troublesome young male Backs-Away and Ozora Advances-Toward the young male Ear-Folding and Ear-Slapping. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Aggressive (2)

It is unusual for females to fight with males, but when it occurs it is likely between an adult female and a teenage male and typically when the young male is behaving inappropriately toward her or toward a member of her family.

In this case Ozora is in estrus and being lightly Guarded by Liaqat. A young male, about 15 years old, smaller than her and perhaps 15 years younger, is interested in her and, perhaps frustrated by her lack of interest in him, becomes aggressive. We use the term aggressive Sparring, but if one studies the behavior this is closer to Dueling.

Ozora is angry at him Ear-Folding and Ear-Slapping and holding her Head-High and Chin-Out. She Backs-Away and he Advances-Toward her. She again Ear-Folds and Ear-Slaps with Head-High and Chin-Out. She Backs-Away again and he presses his advantage. She Lunges at him and they clash and we hear Tusk-Clanks. Ozora Reaches-High, and Lunges at him clashing tusks again. She adopts Circus-Pose and Lunges again then as he Backs-Away she Reaches-High again. She Advances-Toward him Ear-Folding and Ear-Slapping as he Backs-Away. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Aggressive (3)

There is tension around an estrous female. A new medium sized male has just joined the group and a second medium sized male with two broken tusks has taken exception to his arrival and threatens him Ear-Folding and Advancing-Toward him.

As this clip the two males stand facing one another Head-High and Ears-Spreading. They make contact and Tusk-Clank. The male on the right Lunges at the male on the left and forces him back. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Aggressive (4)

Amparo is at the end of estrus. The day before she Mated with musth male Pascal. She has just Mated with a medium sized male whom she is standing beside. She is approached by a young male who has been threatening and harassing her and she has sought protection from the slightly larger male. She Advances-Toward the young male Chin-Out and he Orients-Toward her. She Touches-Self and then adopts Periscope-Trunk. Both Ear-Fold at each other. The male reaches toward her Trunk-to-Mouth and she reciprocates. As she does he Lunges at her and they Tusk-Clank, still Ear-Folding. They both Back-Away from one another. (Amboseli, Kenya)


Context: Aggressive (5)

Throughout an Escalated-Contest between Tee-Jay and Gordon, Tee-Jay really holds Head-High and Chin-in posture and Ear-Folds persistently. In this short clip Tee-Jay Advances-Toward Gordon with Head-High, Chin-In and Lunges twice at Gordon as they Tusk-Clank in a Duel. Tee-Jay forces Gordon back, but after they separate Gordon Advances-Toward Tee-Jay, stil with Head-High and Chin-In Backs-Away. Gordon Head-Shakes and Tee-Jay circles around and comes to face him again. (Amboseli, Kenya)