Thai elephant deaths: Do elephants risk their lives to save each other?
A tragedy in Thailand has pulled on our heartstrings, and can help us learn about elephant empathy.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation (DNP) said the elephants may have been looking for a particular local plant, which only grows in that area once a year, and they may have taken a risk to reach it. Alternatively, they may have gone out of their way to avoid interacting with humans.
"There are many types of elephants: polite, naughty, and nice just like humans. When some of them walk outside of the routes that they are used to, they have a high risk of falling," said DNP director Songtham Suksawang.'Trauma' of survivors
In another emotional twist, two elephants are known to have survived the fall - a mother and calf. They were trapped by the slippery rocks at the bottom, but with the help of park officials made it to safety.Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSix dead elephants were found at the bottom of the gushing Haew Narok waterfallIf elephants do indeed have the empathy and intelligence to understand when one of their kind is in danger and try to save them, what does that mean for these survivors?
"This is a large-brained, intelligent, social, empathetic animal," says Dr Plotnik."I would argue they would suffer the same kind of trauma we would suffer."The exact relationship between the family members is not yet known, but if their matriarchal leader was among the dead, they'll have lost decades of vital knowledge about their jungle home.
Image copyrightImage captionOne of the surviving elephants was seen standing alongside the body of a family memberBecause elephant lives are about as long as ours and they rely on generational knowledge, Dr Dale explains, it could take a very long time to see the effect of this kind of loss and whether it changes their behaviour or traditional routes.
But park officials are confident the pair have the skills to survive and will learn from their experience to avoid the falls.Mr Noonto says reports from the area suggest there may be more family members elsewhere that the two survivors can reunite with. Failing that, they may be taken in by another family group - studies of captive elephants being returned to the wild have shown this is possible, he says.
"They can survive, they can adapt," he says."Perhaps they will even encounter males to rebuild the family."'The wild is not friendly'There is undeniably an allure about elephants, an animal humans have built a relationship with over millennia. Despite their vast size, they are mostly gentle, live in families like us, appear to have fun, and we can watch them apparently mourn. It's easy for us to empathise after a disaster like Khao Yai.Read more: BBC News (UK) »
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cheminahsayang This incident answers that very question, no? Have you read your OWN headlines in the last week? Magnificent creatures are elephants. Elephants are very kind. Of course, unlike tories they have souls I just spoke to two elephants familiar with the matter and they told me to tell you to mind your mothafucking business.
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