IWA Travel Blog


Elephant Love

elephant love

Affectionate touch is common in elephant herds

By Susie Green

On my recent Epic Namibia trip I got to experience what I would call “elephant love”. In the past several years there have been all sorts of articles and documentaries written on how elephants respond to one another.  They seem to laugh, smile, cry, hug and so on.

Several years ago I saw a photo my husband took of some elephants playing in the water with their young and I swore they were all laughing. They appeared to be having a wonderful moment.  I never forgot that photo.

I wanted to get many great photos on this trip but at one point I put the camera down and just watched the elephants interact.  The moms really protect the young by having them on the inside at all times surrounded by aunts and older siblings paying attention to any dangers that might hurt the little guy.

elephant baby and mother

A mother caresses her young with her trunk

As I watched I saw two larger adults come together and greet one another with  their trunks–it was a very gentle trunk to trunk moment and ever so subtle. Our guide said they were sisters greeting one another. Then the most loving moment occurred–a mom  ran her trunk down her calves back from behind to the tip of its head in the most loving gesture I have ever witnessed in an animal–it amounted to a human mom running her hand down her baby’s head and back to show affection and love.  The moment humbled me.

I also witnessed a young male who was maybe the herd bully or not so nice in general that was by himself looking all forlorn as he had been pushed out of the group.  The herd let him stay near but he could not join the rest of them–he was forced to keep his distance.  A form of discipline that seemed to work.

The herd interactions made me really think about the animal planet and the love they show for one another.

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