This was recently illustrated when a pair of elephants saved a baby elephant from drowning at a South Korea zoo. The incident was captured on film, and more than half a million people have already viewed the touching rescue.
When the baby elephant stumbled into the pool in the Grand Park Zoo in Seoul’s wildlife enclosure and struggled to keep its trunk and mouth above the surface, the adult elephant standing next to it immediately sprang into action and tried to fish it out with its trunk. Another nearby elephant rushed over to help.
The duo quickly realized that they wouldn’t be able to fish the baby out with their trunks, and in an incredibly intelligent and well-organized move, they both promptly rushed over to the shallow end of the pool and entered the water together, where they were able to rescue the troubled baby elephant by standing opposite one another and bringing the calf’s head back up above the surface before guiding the flustered animal back to drier land.
The situation perfectly illustrates just how clever these beautiful pachyderms are, and it also demonstrates their compassion. The point is further driven home by a third elephant who appears in the video behind a fence, who begins pacing back and forth nervously and clearly appears to be distressed by the baby elephant’s perilous situation.
Last year, a poignant film showed that these gentle giants might even be more compassionate and loving than people. Soul of the Elephant illustrated how herds gather around to admire newborn elephants and relatives step in to help mothers who lose track of their calves. Even more incredibly, elephants were seen crying and mourning the loss of their loved ones. Another elephant wept tears of joy and relief after being rescued from captivity as a prop for a beggar, leaving even the most science-minded veterinarians who witnessed the situation speechless.
They are also one of only four animal species that can recognize themselves in a mirror in a degree of self-awareness that is linked to social complexity and other high-level thinking skills. They also possess the ability to view their own bodies as obstacles in completing tasks.
Despite their amazing complexity and deeply empathetic nature, people continue to hunt them for sport, poach them to sell their tusks in the illegal ivory trade, put them to work, make them perform in circuses, and otherwise mistreat them. They are also facing extensive habitat loss due to the expansion of human settlements and the construction of infrastructure like roads and pipelines. Elephants need extensive amounts of space, water and food to survive and sometimes come into conflict with humans as they compete for resources.
After watching the video, it’s hard to deny that these magnificent beings have similar concern for their young and compassion for others that humans do, and it’s disheartening that so many people do not show these animals the same regard for life.