Communication in semi-domestic elephants. Another interpretation of social organization,

The communication between 6 individually identified free ranging young elephants were observed for over 200 hrs (1278 elephant hours) in a nature reserve in Zimbabwe. 97 different behaviours, some explicit (whose meaning is clear) and some implicit (whose meaning is hidden), were recorded. Visual signals were the most common. The meaning of the 22 most common behaviours was assessed. Two surprising results were that many behaviours were ignored by the recipients, and that reciprocity was common. Correlations of rank orders in the 4 different behavioural categories (aggression, affiliation, avoidance and interest) did not indicate any “dominance order”. Behaviour related to encouraging group cohesion (showing interest and affiliation) was much more common than that related to competition in the group ( aggression & withdrawing). There was a large number of implicit behaviours which indicate slight arousal and “uncertainty”. The meaning of many behaviours were context dependent (the same behaviour was used in a variety of contexts and its particular meaning assessed from the context). These results indicate that elephants have a theory of mind (aware of others intentions and desires) and aware of others roles and knowledge in the society. The implication of these results for a better understanding of elephants mental aptitudes and social organization are discussed.

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