Even big elephants need a hug

2014-03-06T00:00:00Z Even big elephants need a hug The Billings Gazette

It’s always nice to have someone comfort you when you get hurt, are scared or are feeling bad. Parents, friends, brothers and sisters can be good at making you feel safer and better.

Turns out that Asian elephants are no different. They also reassure each other when one is in pain, in danger or suffering, researchers found out in a recent study. To provide comfort, just like humans they will touch each other and talk to each other.

Humans have long known that elephants are very intelligent. But animals comforting each other is an unusual behavior. Dogs and other canines are known to comfort each other, as do the great apes like chimpanzees and some birds in the crow family.

Here’s how to tell when an elephant gets spooked: its ears go out, its tail stands erect or curls out, and it may emit a low rumble, trumpet and roar.

One way an elephant calms another is to gently touch the other elephant’s face with its trunk, or put its trunk in the other elephant’s mouth – which is like an elephant handshake or hug. Another way elephants calm each other is by making chirping sounds, which may be like when your mother says to a crying baby, “Sssshhh, it’s OK.”

The study of elephants shows us that even though they are big animals, they are capable of being scared and of helping each other calm down, just like humans.

— Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Brett French

Outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette.

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