Science | Animals | Wildlife

Elephants Prove They Have Emotions With Heartbreaking Displays Of Grief

Elise Gilchrist

Anytime someone tells you that an animal isn't capable of feeling emotions, you should probably let them know they are very wrong. As it turns out, even the biggest animals out there are capable of feeling some of the powerful emotions that we all struggle with.

Emotions are never an easy thing to classify in humans, let alone animals. There is no exact measure of chemicals in your brain that will guarantee you to be happy or sad, but instead there are actions that we all seem to go through when we are experiencing intense emotions.

Elephants are especially capable of expressing their emotions in ways that are extremely similar to humans. They have been known to show many complex things that scientists have been able to witness.

Researchers were able to see elephants comfort their friends when a stressful situation was going on. For example, some elephants become stressed because of things passing by that they didn't expect and will express that by holding their tail up high and flaring their ears. They also may start trumpeting and making other vocalizations, but their more calm friends have a few special ways to calm them down.

Elephants are known to caress their companions to help ease the stress. They will often put their trunks in their mouth which is apparently very soothing for them, kind of like giving a baby a pacifier.

That isn't the only human-like behavior elephants are known to express...

Not only do elephants comfort those in crisis, they also are known to morn the dead. When an elephant passes away, the herd it known to stay with them and grieve their loss. According to Jeffery Moussaieff Masson who wrote the book "When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals" elephants will surround a dying elephant to try to help.

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He wrote "the elephants clustered around her and tried mightily to get her up. A young male tried to raise her with his tusks, put food into her mouth, and even tried sexually mounting her, all in vain. The other elephants stroked her with their tusks; one calf knelt and tried to suckle. At last the group moved off, but one female and her calf stayed behind. The female stood with her back to the dead matriarch, now and then reaching back to touch her with one foot."

John D. Chaney

This heartbreaking behavior proves that these animals are able to feel the grief that comes with the loss of a friend.

They also are known to try to help their herd-mates by putting dust on any wounds they see or even plucking out tranquilizer darts from other elephants. The fact that these elephants are capable of feeling proves that people should be a lot more considerate to these amazing creatures.