Elephants famously never forget, and apparently this also means they never forget to help out a friend in need.
With profound and complicated emotional intelligence, these majestic beings have a fittingly enormous store of empathy.
Indeed, the inner world of an elephant is just as huge and overwhelming as their impressive exterior.
Much like humans, their neocortex is highly convoluted and they are able to experience and articulate a range of emotions including happiness, playfulness and grief.
The staggering capacity of the elephant brain is beautifully demonstrated through the story of Thongsri, a 17-year-old elephant who lives in a sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Thongsri clearly harbours a sincere affection and loyalty to her care taker, shown in a touching video which has since gone viral.
The care taker was pretend-fighting with a companion when Thongsri came running over, determined to protect him from any potential threats.
Poor Thongsri looked seriously worried as she stooped down on her knees to check everything was okay, circling the care taker protectively.
You can check out the unlikely best friends for yourself below:
Those who commented on the video were deeply touched by Thongsri’s concern for her human buddy, with some remarking they wished they had an elephant friend of their own.
The way the Elephant got down on it’s knees to get closer to him out of concern is just wow!
The elephant probably considers the care takers as part of their herd, and will do anything to protect them.
Others expressed sadness at the way elephants have been treated by humans over the years, despite their obvious capacity for caring for those outside their own species.
A research paper from The University of Stirling made a number of observations on the empathetic nature of elephants, including the following:
When an individual has fallen over, become stuck in mud, water or other difficult terrain, or is unable to proceed forward for any other reason, other elephants may assist so that the stuck individual can resume travelling.
Acts used to assist mobility include picking up, pushing and pulling, using the trunk, tusks or feet.
The paper concluded:
We therefore take it that elephants do indeed show certain kinds of empathy.
Empathy can operate at a number of levels, from the simplest level of ‘contagion’, to a more sophisticated level described by de Waal (2008) as ‘sympathetic concern’.
The latter is illustrated in our data by instances in which elephants offer protection and comfort to the calves of others, ‘babysit’ them or retrieve them from harm.
The highest level of empathy de Waal describes, ‘empathic perspective taking’, is characterized by ‘targeted helping’ towards needy individuals.
In our data, this was shown in several cases in which calves were helped to overcome mobility problems.
Looking at the physical appearance of elephants, they appear so very alien and different to humans, with our little two-legged bodies.
However, there is so much more going on below the surface…
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.