11 Times Elephants Proved They Were Awesome

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on September 22, 2015.

Elephants are so special that hey get two commemorative dates: World Elephant Day and National Elephant Appreciation Day. Hey, they deserve it.

Elephants are the largest mammals on Earth. They’re highly intelligent. They can even sleep standing up! And despite facing challenges, like being held in captivity and targeted by poachers, elephants persevere.

Still, not convinced of how awesome these creatures are?

Here’s a list of 11 times elephants showed us just how smart, cute and funny they can be.

1. Classical music is their jam

When two musicians took their instruments to the Pairi Daiza zoo and played an excerpt from Handel’s Harpsichord Suite No. 7 in G Minor and Vivaldi’s “Summer,” the elephants started swaying and leaning against each other. When the pace picked up, their energy level also visibly increased as they got more excited by the sounds.

2. They made your Disney dreams come true with some interspecies friendship

Elephants don’t discriminate when it comes to making friends. While they travel in large herds of about 15 other elephants, they play with birds. They have also been known to bond with other animals like dogs – and, yes, even humans.

Tarra the elephant, for example, was captive since she was six months old. She lived for two years behind a delivery truck in California all by herself.

But when Carol Buckley — then a first year student attending an exotic animal management course — met her, their lives changed. Buckley eventually purchased Tarra from her owner and became an elephant crusader. She went on to open her own sanctuary in Tennessee and founded Elephant Aid International.

“Tarra is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing,” says Buckley to Care2. “I quickly learned how highly intelligent these animals are and they are truly incredible.”

At that sanctuary, Tarra met Bella, a stray dog, and quickly became BFFs with her. Buckley recalls:

I sensed she needed to have others with her and at the time it was always me and the dogs and we spent time together. I found Bella on the property and brought her back to the barn and within two weeks they became best friends. They had something the other needed. They were always together.

3. A momma elephant gave her baby a bath just like you saw in “Dumbo”

Turns out filling one’s trunk with water and splashing it over a calf is the best way to keep them clean!

Elephants can hold up to 10 liters of water in their trunks, and just like a shower head, the trunk has pressure settings too. Water can come out in one strong jet or in a softer stream. The elephant chooses the type of shower it desires!

After elephants are clean, they usually complete the reverse process: They dirty up their calves by dousing them in sand on sunny days to keep their sensitive skin from burning.

4. A group of elephants showed some major motherly instincts by protecting their young in response to sirens

When there’s a bomb threat and sirens sound, animals don’t have to grasp international politics to know that something is wrong. When that occurred in Israel, elephant mothers at a zoo trumpeted and rushed to their young, huddling over them and protecting them from the potential threat.

Considering these ladies go through a 22-month pregnancy, it’s understandable that they get so attached.

“Mother elephants stay with their kids forever,” says Buckley. “They’re social animals and matriarchal by nature.”

5. Adult elephants worked together to save a drowning baby elephant.

When a group of elephants at Kruger National Park in South Africa saw that one of their calves was in trouble —  stuck in a watery ditch — they rallied. The elephants showed some amazing team-building skills when working together to save it.

“Elephants make many sounds. Some of them humans can hear like the trumpets with their trunks and rumbles with their chest. Then there are sounds that are too deep for the human ear to be able to hear,” explains Buckley.

Those sounds emit seismic vibrations that travel up to 30 miles on the ground. Other elephants can feel the tremors through their feet. Communication skills are essential for teamwork, and these guys have it!

6. Elephants are deeply emotional creatures and grieve for their dead

When a member of their herd passes, elephants gather around the body, touch it and appear to honor their friend.

The natural life span for elephants is roughly 70 years. Unfortunately, many don’t make it that far because they are poached or hunted as a trophy. Just between 2010 and 2012, it is estimated that over 100,000 elephants were killed for their tusks.

While countries like the United States have banned the importation of ivory products, loopholes remain. There’s still a high demand for ivory in the East where the material is considered a status symbol.

7. They console each other when scared


Photo Credit: snarglebarf/Flickr

A group of researchers studied elephants for a year and found that when one of them was distressed, others consoled the individual. Common behaviors included making sounds, touching the elephant or putting their trunks in his or her mouth.

The ability to console others is a rare quality in animals — it has only been witnessed in great apes, canines and some corvids.

8. This elephant cried when rescued

Raju had a sad start to his life. The elephant was taken from the wild when he was still a baby and held captive by a private owner that abused, beat and starved him. Raju was so hungry at times that he resorted to eating paper and plastic. His skin had bruises and wounds.

Raju’s life changed in 2014, however, when he was finally set free by conservationists.

“The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue,” said Pooja Binepal, from Wildlife SOS UK. “It was so incredibly emotional for all of us. We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed.”

9. They celebrate with a happy dance, just like humans do

Faa Mai, a calf born at a Save Elephant Foundation sanctuary, just couldn’t contain her joy while playing and dancing with a ribbon!

Sweet, sweet freedom is certainly something to be celebrated when you’ve spent 57 years of your life in chains. An elephant in Nepal did a little prancing after Elephant Aid International installed chain-free corrals that allowed her to roam around for the first time.

“There’s an incredible shift in their posture and in their eyes when they go chain-free,” says Buckley, who just returned from Nepal where she freed over 90 elephants from chains by installing the corrals. “Most of them are present during construction so they know what’s going on. One of the ways they survive in chains is that they check out. They’re not there mentally but when they’re freed they lighten up and their heads lift up higher. They play!”

10. Elephants even get a little intimidated by their size

The biggest mammal on Earth eats up to 300 pounds of food on a single day. Even when elephants are first born, they already weigh 200 pounds and are over three feet tall.

It’s no wonder, then, that when a baby elephant sneezed, it scared itself for a second.

11. And their trunks are pretty cool

Elephant trunks contain over 100,000 muscles. On the end, they have two finger-like features that elephants use to pick up food. In addition to eating, elephants use their trunks for breathing, smelling, drinking — by picking up the water and spraying it into their mouths — and trumpeting.

There’s no denying that it’s a pretty big nose, though, so we can’t blame a young calf at Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, UK, for being a little confused. He was just trying to figure out what this whole trunk thing is about!

Photo Credit: Casey Allen/Unsplash


Richard E Cooley
Richard E Cooley2 months ago

Thank you.

Georgina Elizab M
Georgina Elizab M2 months ago

Just how "human " elephants are.Some Humans could take examples on how to behave in society .They could also Think Twice before killing and mistreating them. NOT use them for entertainment purposes.

K R2 months ago

Thanks for posting it again, you wonderful Care2 people. Brought back a spirit of strength and companionship with 'all things great and small' to my saddened heart after signing a bunch of petitions this morning. I am sending this to my parent-friends to show to their children (and for themselves too).

Maggie D
Maggie D2 months ago

How these glorious creatures put human beings to shame!

sue higgins
sue higgins2 months ago

Elephants are so special in every way as they feel so many emotions and its true that elephants never ever forget......why ..? because they understand what love is as do ALL animals but elephants as big as they are....are true softees and why WE must respect ALL of them

Irene S
Irene S2 months ago

Now doubt, they are awesome. But they should be safe as well.

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson2 months ago

Thank you.

Shae Lee
Shae Lee3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Shirley P
Shirley Plowman3 months ago

I've said it before, elephants are exceptional creatures, they are gifted in many many ways, we humans MUST save them FOR EVER111111

Mia B
Melisa B3 months ago

Thank you