I recently read this article, An Elephant Crackup?, about Elephant trauma. It talked about how elephants that witness something traumatic, such as seeing the death of their mother, tend to be more violent. They will rape and kill rhinoceroses, destroy small villages and sometimes kill people with their tusks. It went on to talk about how these events parallel the same type of trauma a person may go through when their village is destroyed, leaving young children to go on with no home and no sense of belonging. They too usually end up being very violent and lash out. The similarities and affects of these two scenarios are quite amazing. The article also talks about the intelligence and complex emotions that elephants possess.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to make this comparison. Ever since I started reading about animals and their emotions for my thesis project six years ago (wow how time flies!), I’ve been very sympathetic towards animals and the lack of compassion that most humans have. Why is it so hard to believe, or so shocking that elephants may be complex like us? Here’s another article, Elephants’ jumbo mirror ability, that makes a small case for elephant self-awareness. In this article, they’ve shown an elephant a mirror and the elephant recognizes itself.
I hope these studies will make people more aware of just how tender and delicate these huge animals are. And maybe we will gain more respect for them and have more interest in making sure that they survive.