Asian elephants have just been added to the list of animals that show tremendous concern for others. A study in the journal PeerJ found that when an Asian elephant detects that another is stressed out, it uses its trunk to gently caress the suffering elephant and emits a sweet-sounding chirp.
"I've never heard that vocalization when elephants are alone," lead author Joshua Plotnik said. "It may be a signal like, 'Shshhh, it's okay,' the sort of sounds a human adult might make to reassure a baby."
Plotnik, CEO of Think Elephants International and a lecturer at Mahidol University, and colleagues also found that consoling elephants might put their trunk into the other elephant's mouth.
"It's a very vulnerable position to put yourself in, because you could get bitten," Plotnik explained. "It may be sending a signal of, 'I'm here to help you, not hurt you.'"