White Rhino Charges Elephant, Elephant Brilliantly Responds
At first glance, this video looks like there’s gonna be an epic showdown between two of natures biggest beasts but as the clip continues to roll, something quite extraordinary happens (feel free to read this article in the voice of David Attenborough if it helps, by the way).
In this incredible video, from Kruger National Park in South Africa, a white rhino can be seen charging at an elephant but rather than back away or engage it, the wily beast picks up a branch and tosses it at his angry adversary.
What is the elephant up to? Joyce Poole, an expert on elephant behaviour, National Geographic explorer, and co-founder of Elephant Voices has the answer.
“It was an invitation to play,” Poole said. “It wasn’t aggressive – elephants sometimes want to push their weight around.”
Poole explains that the two elephants in the video are dominant males and are probably around 18 years old. At that age, it’s not uncommon for blokes to form ‘bachelor’ groups before they have their own family or to decide to go it alone.
The male in this video exhibits three distinct behaviours.
First, he curls his trunk into an S shape and signals an interest in duelling with the rhino. This is known as ‘distant frontal attitude’ and it indicates that he is waiting for the rhino’s next move.
The elephant then attempts to play by bending his head, resting his trunk on his tusk and pressing his ears back. It’s at this point that the rhino becomes threatened and charges slightly.
The elephant responds by picking up the stick (which was little more than a toy, up until that point) and tossing it at the rhino.
Picking up objects and throwing them at would-be predators is a common self-defence tactic used by elephants before engaging in actual physical confrontation.
Whether it’s an aggressive act depends on the elephant in question, Poole explained, with the likeliness of an individual showing signs of aggression dependant on past experiences, populations, and individual characteristics (remind you of any other species on this planet?).
Elephants are famous for having incredible memories and their intelligence is one of the highest in the entire animal kingdom.
Similar to how the star of this video picks up a stick as a play object and source of defence, elephants commonly use tools and objects to express emotions.
In fact, African elephants engage in more than 200 different known postures that convey a vast array of emotions, from aggression to affection.
They are also known to be one of the most empathetic animals in the world: scientists have observed them pulling tranquillizer darts out of their peers’, spraying dust on wounds, and even mourning their dead by placing plants and soil over carcasses and having what appears to be elephant-funerals.
A truly incredibly animal and worth so much more than just their tusks.
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