Video footage of a baby elephant falling into a pool of water shows how much of drama queens elephants can be.
Don't worry, though, as the baby elephant was perfectly all right. The one-year-old was walking close to the edge of the pool when it slipped and fell in. Now, as any parent of a toddler can attest, this can be quite horrifying. However, this little elephant wasn't actually in any sort of danger. It does, after all, have that long trunk that she can stick out of the water and use as a snorkel. Thus, though falling into the water may have been quite a surprise for the little one, it fortunately didn't drown.
However, if you noticed how the baby's mother reacted, you'd think that the baby was in danger. The mother and another female adult were quite alarmed, as evidenced by the rapid flapping of their ears. Even another elephant behind a fence in the background panicked when it saw the baby fall into the pool.
Elephants are quite amazing. They have over 200 known postures and gestures that they use to convey emotions. They're altruistic beasts, and they can recognize themselves in a mirror, which means they have some degree of self-awareness. They are also able to display behaviors that indicate grief, mourning, compassion, and playfulness.
Elephants are also incorrigible drama queens. Joyce Poole, founder of ElephantVoices, stresses that the baby was in no danger of drowning. When the adult elephants began panicking and rushed after the baby into the pool, it wasn't because there was any real threat that the baby might drown. In fact, Poole says that the adults probably knew that the baby was capable of swimming.
“If anything kind of dramatic happens in the family, it is cause for great excitement,” says Poole. It's apparently a way for elephants to form strong bonds. The worry that the mother elephant, her companion, and the other elephant in the next enclosure over all displayed is a prime example of how empathetic elephants are. The video also shows how elephants form very close family bonds, even in captivity.
Poole says that captivity can be difficult for elephants, who have large social groups and complex cognition. Elephants in the wild often stay in groups with other blood-related elephants. Females all stay in one group, with juvenile males staying until the age of about 13 to 15. Males form their own groups as well, though the social structure in all-male groups is a bit different.
In captivity, elephants form close bonds with other elephants who are genetically unrelated to them. The adult elephants in the video, for example, are not related to each other. The other adult female, who is already 36 years old, has taken the role that an aunt or a grandmother would fill in the wild. As the video shows, the 36-year-old female and the 13-year-old mother coordinated their “rescue” of the little elephant quite well.
Thus, elephants may be drama queens, but that just means that they've always got each other's backs.
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