elephants are conspicuously expressive and joyful creatures. when celebrating a birth or reuniting with old acquaintances, elephants will intertwine their trunks together and engage in friendly trunk wrestling. when trying to console a loved one, elephants will stroke or caress each others’ heads and backs with their trunks.
demonstrations of true consolation in animals are rare, and have only been documented in the great apes, canines, and some corvids. this might be because complex cognitive abilities are required for consolation, such as the ability to empathically take the perspective of another. elephants are one of the few animals to pass the mirror test.
with their strong social bonds, it’s not surprising that elephants show concern for others. elephants get distressed when they see others in distress, reaching out to calm them down. the consistency with which elephants responded to a friend in distress is quite remarkable. rarely does an elephant give a distress call without a response from a friend or group member nearby.
photos by mario moreno. some text from a february 2014 wired article