A study has found that Asian elephants will look to comfort herd mates that are distressed.
The study, published in the journal PeerJ, found that elephants will offer up chirps and gentle caresses in an attempt to comfort, reports National Geographic.
Scientists involved in the study watched 26 elephants living at the Elephant Nature Park, which is in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand. The researchers didn’t create any stressful situations for the elephants, but rather watched them for short periods of time throughout the day, looking for situations that arose naturally.
According to IBITimes, stressful situations included spotting a snake nearby or seeing a dog walk by. During these situations, the scientists noticed that when an elephant displayed distress signals, their neighbors would follow suit.
Kanchanaburi, Thailand’s Mahidol University behavioral ecologist Joshua Plotnik said the elephants would adopt “the same emotion.” He added, “just as we do when watching a scary movie together. If an actor is frightened our hearts race, and we reach for each other’s hand.”
Following the stressful situations, the elephants were seen gathering close together and touching each other in sympathetic gestures.
Plotnik said, “the touching that did happen in the post-distress seemed to happen very soon after … which tells us that all the touching and vocalizations were most likely related to the distress.”
image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons