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They're gay, they grieve and they're left-handed: Elephants are just like humans

  • @victoriafinan

Elephants are more like humans than you may realise...

Elephants grieve

Anyone who remembers the heart-breaking sight of a mother elephant mourning her baby in David Attenborough’s Africa last year will know that grief is a very real emotion for them. They keep vigil over bodies for days and some of them have even been known to shed tears.

Elephants protect the vulnerable

We like to think we’re a charitable lot, and elephants are no different. When threatened by an outsider, the elephant herd will form a circle, enclosing the most vulnerable- the elderly, the sick, the young, on the inside. Lions are one of the biggest threats, and the elephants nearly always stand their ground so that the predator eventually gives up.

Elephants can be gay

Same-sex elephants have been known to mount each other and have also been seen ‘kissing’- inserting their trunk into the other elephant’s mouth. Most elephant relationships are fleeting, however, relationships between two male elephants (usually one older and one younger) have been known to last years.

Elephants have amazing memories

An elephant never forgets? True! Tests on one herd in Africa showed that they could remember the colours and smells of a Masai tribe who had persecuted them, and were frightened and aggressive. By contrast, they showed ambivalence to the colours and scents of the Kamba people, who treat elephants with kindness.

Elephants are altruistic

The world would be a nicer place if all humans practiced altruism. Elephants go out of their way not to cause harm to others. They have been known to sit with humans they have accidentally injured until they are rescued, and there is a famous story of a worker elephant in India who one day refused to drop logs. When her owner came to inspect, he found it was because there was a sleeping dog lying in the log hole.

Elephants can be left-handed

Some hipster elephants are left-handed. But it’s not their great feet that are dominant- it’s their tusks. They have a preferred tusk for digging up earth and uprooting trees and will only use the other if their tusk-of-choice becomes severely injured.

Elephants suffer from the Terrible Twos…

Young elephants take some reining in! Just like children, they are known for their terrible tantrums, where they throw themselves into the mud and flail wildly until they are exhausted.

Today, just 650,000 elephants remain on the planet, and they are in real danger of extinction. By supporting Space For Giants through the Independent’s Christmas Appeal, we can help ensure that these majestic creatures begin to be treated worldwide with the respect that they deserve.

You can read more about our Christmas Campaign here