1. Elephants understand foreign languages. 

[Image credit: blieusong]

Wild elephants can discern the languages humans are speaking, such as the those of the Masai group in Kenya (who occasionally kill elephants) and Kamba group (who don’t pose as much of a threat). When scientists played recordings of Masai men speaking, elephant herds were about twice as likely to retreat than if they heard the voices of Kamba men.

2. Elephants understand the virtues of teamwork.

[Image creditmadrones]

Elephants show cooperation, according to an experiment by researchers in Thailand. In the study, elephants figured out how to work as a team to lower a platform holding food. Two elephants had to tug on the ends of a rope simultaneously -- if only one elephant pulled on the rope, the cord unthreaded from the platform and the treat remained out of reach.

3. Elephants love admiring themselves in the mirror.

[Image credit: Rennett Stowe]

Many animals can see reflections, but it takes a special sense -- self-awareness -- to recognize what’s in the mirror staring back. Whereas dogs might try to find the other animal “behind” the mirror, elephants aren’t fooled: They see themselves in the glass.

4. Elephants love their tools, too!

Grasping sticks with their dextrous trunks, elephants are able to swat flies or dig watering holes. And as the video above shows, when there’s a branch within trunk’s reach, itchy feet aren’t a problem for elephants.

5. Baby elephants love to play.

Sometimes baby elephants just have to splash around in a lake, too.

6. Elephants rely on old, wise leaders.[Image credit: oldandsolo]  

In elephant families, an older female often shoulders the role of leader. Family members take their cues from this matriarch, says Karen McComb, an animal behavior expert at the University of Sussex, U.K. She discovered that older matriarchs, too, are more adept at handling threats than less experienced animals. When confronted with a recording of a lion’s roar, young elephants aren’t as alarmed, but old matriarchs huddle up defensively to protect their families.

7. Elephants mourn their dead by grieving.[Image credit: exfordy]

As anthropologist and author Barbara J. King explains at NPR, a group of elephants expressed grief over the passing of Eleanor, the matriarch of a family in Kenya: 

When Eleanor died, a female called Maui, from [another] elephant family, hovered over her body, pulling on and rocking over it. During the next week, elephants from five different families came to the body. Some individuals seemed motivated only by curiosity. But the behavior of others... clearly involved grief.

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