In animals as clearly capable of what our species considers more complex and considered emotions, the space between us and them seems so much smaller that it arouses our curiosity about their behaviour just that little bit more.
(Read our article on ‘Two real-life stories illustrating the intelligence and compassion of elephant‘)
Elephant often give us evidence of their capacity for compassion or their heightened intelligence. In their behaviour toward one another, they so clearly demonstrate emotional attachment between individuals. They do so in ways that are so similar to how we do – in the bond you see in trunk-to-trunk interactions or in the bashfulness we notice in a young calf’s hiding between a mother’s legs – that it inspires a greater degree of understanding, or, at the least, a greater need to understand.
We feel we can read more from these signs than we would in species that practice more alien modes of behaviour.
Perhaps this is the reason we are so much more concerned with understanding what elephant do for fun than we are with what snakes or fish find joy in. When we do, however, try and understand what elephant do for fun, we couch the need for that understanding in the realm of behavioural science.
We consider their actions as integral to the forming of bonds, and the bonds themselves as integral to survival. It’s interesting how seldom we satisfy our curiosity about elephant behaviour from simply a spectator’s stance. Do we consider our own search for fun as something we do only in encouragement of our species survival? We don’t.
It makes sense that we are intrigued by the perceived necessity of why other species do what we ourselves do. We approach the understanding of a different species behaviour from a scientific stance, from a desire to understand and see purpose. Adopting this attitude has brought us better understanding of the depth to an elephant’s experience.
Now, however, in a world where we have become better acquainted with the complexity of elephant thought and the layers to their social interactions, does the ‘what does this mean for their survival’ lens layer in a level of science that now serves to create distance between their species and ours.
Below are a list of the things that elephant do for fun. This writer would urge you to try and understand these activities less like tools of survival. Perhaps, in doing so, we bring ourselves closer to this species, we may better see ourselves as animals cohabiting this world with neighbours and not others.
- Socializing: Elephants are highly social animals and enjoy spending time with their herd members. They engage in playful interactions, such as touching, grooming, and using their trunks to communicate with each other.
- Bathing and swimming: Elephants love water and often engage in bathing and swimming activities. They use their trunks to spray water on themselves and playfully splash around.
- Dust bathing: Elephants take pleasure in dust bathing, which involves rolling in mud or dry dust to help protect their skin from the sun and insects. It also provides a way for them to cool down and remove parasites.
- Exploring and foraging: Elephants are curious creatures and enjoy exploring their surroundings. They forage for food, using their trunks to search for vegetation and using their tusks to dig up roots and bark.
- Playing with objects: Elephants have been observed playing with objects such as branches, logs, or balls. They may use these items to toss, kick, or even balance on for amusement.
- Vocalizing: Elephants produce a variety of sounds, including trumpeting, rumbling, and growling. These vocalizations serve as a means of communication but can also be a form of play or expressing excitement.
- Scratching and rubbing against objects: Elephants often scratch themselves against trees, rocks, or other rough surfaces. They may rub their bodies, particularly their backs, to relieve itchiness or for pleasure.