CoalitionContext: Attacking & Mobbing (1)
This clip is over 6 minutes long and documents the extraordinary coordination that is typical of elephant defensive behavior. The elephants belong to Gorongosa's Mabenzi family and the formation of this Coalition is typical of the type of the behavior we observed from them and other families in this population.
The clip begins with a view of matriarch Provocadora, gf0012, as she begins a Perpendicular-Walk. You can hear us discussing her behavior, 'She seems to be a little bit... sneaky.' Through her Perpendicular-Walk we had already picked up on the fact that she was already signaling her aggressive intentions to us and others. The filmmaker comments, 'She's gonna charge so I might as well go before she does it.' She stops her walk and Contemplates us while Dusting - a form of Displacement-Grooming. Then she begins her Perpendicular-Walk again, with a side-long look at us, and includes a couple of Trunk-Sweeps, both behaviors we believe to be coalition building signals. She reaches the rest of her family and there is faint Rumbling. She turns to face us, Body-Axis-Pointing.
The rest of the family stand behind her, also facing us. She Initiates-Movement (with a female calf trying to Suckle) and we start the car. Our retreat seems to be a trigger for the entire family of 40 (excluding Provocadora) to begin a Group-Advance on us. We stop to discuss the situation and are forced to retreat again. By now the lead has been taken over by tuskless female Mwana Nzo, gf0016, who picks up the pace until she is Charging after us, with the entire family following her lead. She gives a couple of Forward-Trunk-Swings at us. We hear someone in the background giving Trumpet-Blasts. Mwana Nzo slows to a fast walk, but then begins to Charge again, trying to cut us off when we make a turn. We pick up speed to escape her and can see the entire family coming after us, Trumpeting. Joyce comments that the Trumpets sounded like excited elephants at play.
But in the next scene Marcela, gf0017, takes over from Mwana Nzo and comes at us in full Charge. She raises her Head-High and lowers it. When her head is lowered she engages in Trunk-Bounce-Drag. She Trumpet-Blasts and as, we pull away, she slows and does a Head-Dip-Touch-Ground twice. Her short Charge is replaced by an extraordinary 2 minute Charge by Valente, gf0013 (who becomes the families next matriarch). The entire family continues to follow in a Group-Charge. Valente engages in Ear-Spreading throughout her Charge and does a lot of Trunk-Bouncing and Trunk-Dragging, especially as she closes in on us. She also gives a couple of Trumpet-Blasts that are not very effective - perhaps due to her physical effort. We are having a hard time getting away from her and avoiding pig-holes.
As we turn the car she cuts corners to try to cut us off. At one point she pauses Reaching-High with her trunk, as if her job is complete, but then she renews her Charge, attempting to cut us off a couple more times as we turn to avoid pig-holes. She clearly understands the arc of our movement and how to best catch us. When she finally figures she has done her job, she slows and goes to meet the others who are coming up behind her.
Joyce comments, 'I have to say she won' and as she meets Mwana Nzo, Marcela and the rest of the family to begin a long victory celebration - called an End-Zone-Dance - Joyce comments, 'and they are very proud of themselves. Look at that'. We hear them Open-Mouth Rumbling and giving Social-Trumpets and see them streaming with Temporin, Urinating and Defecating, and engaging in Trunk-Twining, Tusk-Clank, Tail-Raising, Head-Raising, Rapid-Ear-Flapping, Reciprocal-Trunk-to-Mouth, Open-Mouth-to-Open-Mouth. Then, as if victory wasn't sweet enough, Mwana Nzo initiates another Group-Advance on us with everyone in tow. We depart as Joyce say again, 'they are very, very proud of themselves'. Provocadora, the original instigator, is nowhere in sight. (Gorongosa, Mozambique)