‘The communal heart of the elephants’
Elephants have a fission-fusion society in which multiple family groups come together to socialize. (A fission-fusion society means that they are in constant state of re-inventing themselves accordingly to the group dynamics and the environment). Females tend to interact with other families, clans, and sub-populations. Families associate and bond with each other, forming what are known as bond groups, and it is common to observe those groups creating ‘nursing units’ or ‘juvenile care units’, where the females work together and assist each other. Calves are the center of attention in their family groups and rely on their mothers for as long as three years.
While the female stays in the group for life, the males leave their family groups when they reach puberty, either to live alone or with other males, and adult males mostly interact with family groups when looking for a mate, during that time they provide extra protection to the group.
Elephants can live up to 70 years in the wild. They communicate by touch, sight, smell and sound; they have a high sensitivity to the sense of smell and they can hear long distances through low frequency sounds.
The elephant trunks can wrestle, it can break a huge tree and it lifts up to 770lbs. At the same time their trunks can be gentle to break a peanut shell without damaging the seed, to softly caress their baby’s head and to the used as a snorkel during their submersion ‘cool down time’ in water. Elephants also express a great sense of self-awareness and show empathy for dying individuals of their kind. They might mourn for days over a dead ‘relative’.
I can keep on sharing so many more facts about the elephant’s life, but I really want to address here the fact that they are extremely communal & family oriented. We had the privilege to witness this fact during our visit to their wild habitat in Kenya, Africa this past September. And to observe the loving feeling they transmit when they are caring for each other is something amazing to remember and to reflect.
The elephant intelligence has been compared with that of primates and cetaceans. And I add a little more in this matter, knowing that we have also interacted close and personal with the wild dolphins, they too form family groups where they care for one another and are connect for life. Those groups are called ‘pods’ and it provides for a cooperative, social way of life and increases the chances for individual survival. Cooperation and forming alliances are ways in which the more complex mammals attempt to organize their social environment.
Dolphins are very social creatures; they join in a particular pod, split up and rejoin pods in different combinations, always re-creating their individual and group worlds. Their group size depends on the availability of food and the depth of their environment (their place in the ocean). And it can go from less than 20 to more than 1000 dolphins; isn’t it just awesome!
Similarly to the elephants, one type of the dolphin’s pod is made up of mothers and their babies, and these maternity pods are called ‘nurseries’, where they might also include the care for the elderly dolphins. While ‘juvenile’ pods will include males and females who have left the nurseries and are not yet sexually mature, but they get together to learn social behaviors. Some of those as the ‘helping for others’ behavior, like the bottlenose dolphins may come to the aid of injured dolphins plus off and on provide physical support for the weakened one by assisting it to the surface to breathe.
As you have observed by the sharing about the elephants of Africa and the dolphins of the Caribbean Ocean a great amount of similarities are found, especially the way in which they behave in a community and family matter, and their natural abilities to keep on re-creating themselves to adapt to the new needs of their environment. Which in fact those mammals have to really master those skills to combat the constant threat infused by the human beings, for example; on the elephant population the well recorded poaching for their ivory and the commercialization of the baby elephants to be sold for circuses, and on the dolphin’s population, their capture for captivity purposes (aquarium and water parks) and their massacres (for their meat).
So, as we connect with our own communities and families during this Holiday Season and the New Year ahead, may we remember to care for one another (extended to all species) and allow the true wisdom of Mother Nature to be reflected in us.
Want to fully connect to nature, to sacred community, in a place of support and care, where you feel nurture and heard; a place where you can Be YourSelf and re-create anew as you choose, a place where experiences become life-affirming moments and changes reflects choices… Click Here
A place where you commune with nature, dive as the dolphins and snorkel as the elephants … click here
From our heart to yours
Lydie & Louis