The social life and intelligence of elephants
"Elephants are highly intelligent social animals. The way that elephants are being kept in captivity in a lot of cases is contrary to how they should be kept
for their well-being...If they are not allowed to move adequate distances during the day, for example, they are not fulfilling their requirements as an organism."
Note: The images below are not specifically related to the articles listed.
Facts about elephants
Love elephants? What to avoid
Basic facts about elephants
'They're like us,' Elephant researchers say
'Photo captures heart-wrenching moment an elephant bids farewell to fallen companion', Daily Mail, 1 October 2013
'Heart-breaking moment baby elephant refuses to leave his dead mother's side', Daily Express, 14 May 2014
'The amazing intelligence of elephants ', The Guardian, 14 October 2013
'The science is in: Elephants are even smarter than we realized', Scientific American, 26 February 2014
'Elephants outwit humans during intelligence test', Discovery.com, 7 March 2011
The profound intelligence and intuition of elephants
Eight facts that show us elephants are people, too
Brainy elephants: One more way they’re as smart as humans, Time, 10 October 2013
Seven behaviors that prove elephants are incredibly smart
Elephants ace intelligence test
'A trunk-to-mouth existence', Monitor on Psychology, June 2004, Vol 35, No. 6
Parallel evolution of intellect? The cognitive abilities of elephants (pdf)
Facts about elephants: African elephants and Asian elephants, Live Science, 25 September 2014
The intelligence of elephants
The intelligence of the elephant, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 57, No. 2943, 16 April 1909), pp. 436-440
Elephants outwit humans during intelligence test
The evolution of social intelligence [in elephants]
'Orphans no more', National Geographic, September 2011
Elephants living as they should be able to (Video)
Emotional times with an elephant
'Study points to elephants' intelligence' SCMP, 12 October 2013
'Elephants use their trunks to ace intelligence tests, National Geographic, 28 December 2013
'Five unbelievable habits of elephants', Independent, 10 December 2013
Elephants: Why they are so smart
How it should be.
A tiny elephant is born 6 hours earlier and many elephants, including bulls, in the herd (living in Thailand's
Khao Yai national park) have come to visit the newborn: Click here
for video page. Click here for photos
'Circus elephants are often chained by one or two legs when not performing. This only allows them to shuffle a few steps each way. Chaining, or tethering, causes great frustration as elephants in the wild would normally walk several miles each day. It is the natural behaviour of elephants to be constantly moving, as they travel long distances searching for food and water. Not being able to do these natural behaviours places elephants into a constant state of frustration...'.
'When elephants are in a circus setting they are living in even worse conditions [than the zoo]. They are often chained up and forced to stand still in small cages. This can lead to a great deal of stress for elephants. They are instinctively driven to be able to move at their own leisure'.
'Scientists have observed extraordinary displays of emotion from elephants. When one tame animal called Abu died at a safari outfit in Botswana, his keepers brought the other elephants to say ‘goodbye’. One female, Cathy, was seen crying from both eyes, tears streaming down her face.
Their society is a very female-based hierarchy, and the loyalty that a herd shows to a matriarch is intensely strong. They will follow her wherever she goes...
Emotion requires communication, and the vocalisations of elephants are incredibly sophisticated. They operate on some sound frequencies we can hear — trumpeting and grumbling — and others that we can’t. Much of their long-distance communication occurs through vibrations that are inaudible to us. Low-frequency (or infrasonic) sounds are transmitted constantly, a deep rumble somewhere between 15-30 Hertz. The normal human range of hearing is between 20Hz and 20,000Hz'.
'An elephant moving its body or its head from side: this stereotypic behaviour is not part of an elephant's natural range of behaviours...
If, for instance, an elephant seeks physical contact to another elephant and is prevented from doing so due to being chained up, it may react by displaying stereotypic behaviour. The elephant will begin weaving and will continue to do so until it has reached its goal, i.e. until it is able to touch the other elephant, or until distracted by a new stimulus. If it is not allowed to satisfy this key stimulus either, the circle of disappointment begins again and the elephant may degenerate to a sad, frustrated creature...
Weaving is a surrogate activity caused by boredom, frustration and desolation'.
See examples of this in some of the clips listed in Videos
'A dying matriarch elephant had been abandoned by her herd and was struggling to stand. She was approached by the matriarch of another herd, who repeatedly used her tusks to help bring the collapsed elephant to her feet, in what the researchers described as an act of compassion. Some of these tender moments have even been caught on camera'.
'In South Africa in the late 20th century, wildlife officials authorized the killing of entire elephant families in some fenced parks...Somehow, other elephant families in the park knew this was happening. Perhaps it was the cries of terror as the animals were shot. Or perhaps those being killed were able to emit low rumbles that carried the news for miles. Immediately after a culling operation—and even after rangers cleaned up the area, removing all the bodies—other elephant families would come to the scene. They inspected the ground and smelled the earth, and then the visiting elephants left, never to return...'.
'The insight and intelligence of the elephant is particularly noteworthy in their ability to mourn their dead. This behaviour has only previously been noted in humans. In fact, recently deceased elephants will receive a burial ceremony, while those who are already reduced to a skeleton are still paid respect by passing herds. The burial ceremony is marked by deep rumblings while the dead body is touched and caressed by the herd members trunks.
Intelligence is also manifested in the elephant's ability to self-medicate. When a pregnant mother is due to give birth, she will chew on the leaves of the tree from the Boraginaceae family to induce labour.Another ability that indicates superior intellect is elephants ability to play and display a sense of humour. Games include throwing a stick at a certain object, passing an object from one animal to another, or squirting water out of the trunk in a fountain. Elephants in zoos have even been seen stealing onlookers caps and hiding them in playful teasing.
The ability to mimic sounds is another indication of the impressive intelligence of these beasts. Elephants have been recorded mimicking passing trucks and even the sounds made by their trainers. Often, the elephant manages to articulate certain sounds so that they bear a strong resemblance to the spoken word.
Elephants are able to use tools or implements to accomplish a task they cannot perform on their own. They have been observed digging holes for drinking water, then moulding bark from a tree into the shape of a ball and placing it on top of the hole and covering it over with sand to avoid evaporation. They also use sticks to scratch their backs when their trunk can not reach and have been known to drop rocks on electric fences to damage them. The elephant's problem solving abilities are another impressive facet of their boundless intelligence'.
'Field scientists have studied the special bonds of elephant herds for decades. Family members mourn their dead, even gently caressing the jawbones of their ancestors during grieving rituals.Filmmakers have also documented moments of pachyderm heroism, as when a herd of adult females rescued a baby elephant that had fallen into a mud hole, remarkably forming their own team of first responders.
And in a poignant demonstration of similarity to humans, an elephant named Happy at New York's Bronx Zoo recently joined the ranks of self-aware species that includes humans, apes and dolphins. Happy showed scientists something profound when she passed the test for self-recognition...
"I think the real shock right now, in terms of the mirror self-recognition tests and their intelligence and their emotions is, they're like us...It's that they're on level footing with us," said Gay Bradshaw, director of the research institute,The Kerulos Center...
In recent years researchers have observed a violent change in elephant-human relations after decades of peaceful coexistence. "Humans are regarded as the enemy. You must never, ever be cruel to an elephant because they have an amazing memory. They will remember that for life....".
One of the most terrifying cases took place in a circus tent in 1994, when Tyke, an African elephant...escaped into the streets of downtown Honolulu, seeking refuge from the gathering armies of law enforcement, until she was eventually gunned down. It took 87 bullets. "The Tyke footage is particularly disturbing when you look through the eyes of the science, because you understand the behavior that Tyke displays is someone who is incredibly stressed, someone who is so traumatized and so upset. It's very un-elephant like behavior," said Bradshaw.
Elephants have ample reason to fear humans. In the last century their population has been decimated, from an estimated 10 million in the early 1900s to half a million
'These animals [elephants] are well known for their size and power, but also for being highly intelligent and self-aware. They exhibit a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mimicry, play, altruism, compassion, cooperation, memory, and language'.
Louis Sahagun, 'Column One : Elephants Pose Giant Dangers : Pachyderm attacks are on the rise, creating king-size problems for zoos and circuses. Some believe the intelligent mammals are rebelling against inhumane treatment', LA Times, 11 October 1994.
'Circus cruelty', Focaweb.com.
'Elephant: natural habitat'.
'Elephants really do grieve like us', Daily Mail, 31 January 2013.
'Stereotypic behaviour and behavioural disorders in elephants'.
'Rhinos and elephants: the secret lives of Africa's giants', BBC, 26 December 2012.
'It's Time to accept that elephants, like us, are empathetic beings ', National Geographic, 23 February 2014.
'Elephant Intelligence', Elephants Forever.
'They're like us,' Elephant researchers say', ABC News, 24 July 2008.
'The Mourning Posters honor species that are near extinction', Adland, 1 September 2016.