An elephant Digging around, Lifting, Pushing or Pulling another elephant to assist it to stand, get up a bank, out of a river or mud-wallow or otherwise help it to overcome some physical predicament. Also observed when an elephant is incapacitated, dying or dead. All age/sex groups, except infants, may be observed attempting to Help other elephants, but this behavior is most successful among older, stronger elephants and most common among adult, adolescent and juvenile females during their care of calves.

References: Douglas-Hamilton 1972: ch 6; Lee 1987; Moss 1992; Poole 1996; Kahl & Armstrong 2000; Bates et al 2008; Poole & Granli 2011. (Full reference list)

This behavioral constellation includes the following behaviors: Lifting, Pulling, Pushing, Digging and occurs in the following context(s): Affiliative, Birth, Calf Reassurance & Protection, Social Play


Context: Social Play (1)

Two calves are Sparring - one about 2 years old and the other about 4 years old. The smaller calf looks apprehensive standing in an expectant Periscope-Trunk posture. The larger calf lowers him or herself onto its knees.

This behavior is not uncommon to see when elephants of very different size Spar. It is always the larger elephant who Kneels-Down and we conclude that the motivation is to appear smaller and less threatening to their playmate. We count this as a form of Helping behavior. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)


Context: Social Play (2)

Two males are Sparring - gm0009 with a broken leg is on the right and a slightly smaller male on the left. Gm0009 is forced back but then Pushes back against the other male. It gets rough and then gm0009 turns and Rump-Present and Tail-Swats allowing the smaller male to touch him Trunk-to-Genitals. The Trunk-to-Genitals seems to be a Conciliatory gesture. After this the younger male backs up and Kneels-Down. The two face one another while he is on his knees.

This behavior is not uncommon when there are differing sizes or abilities between two Sparring partners as if the more competent wants to make himself less threatening to the broken-legged male. This is a kind of Helping behavior. Thereafter they continue the game. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)